Archive for the ‘Learn’ Category
Mystique has surrounded them for years. Many automatically assume that Cubans are the crème de la crème of the cigar world. But do they really deserve this distinction or are they just coasting on the laurels of decades worth of hype and intrigue? …
What makes the modern man; what are the constituent parts? The equation, if you will. It can be a heavily loaded question and, of course, the ideal changes with the idealist, but there have to be a few fundamental basics. Matt Moore, singer-songwriter…
Today’s suds are an endangered species, says Willy Blackmore, food editor for TakePart. (Photo: Cafe Bink, Carefree, Arizona.)So are the grapes and wines of the 20th century. Blackmore relates the phenomena to the power of climate change. The geography…
Growing up in the Penedès region of Spain, Pere Ventura Montserrat comes from a long line of winemakers and winemaking tradition. His great-grandfather helped produce the first bottles of Cava at Codorniu back in 1872, with subsequent generations continuing to make wine in the area. However, despite his family heritage, Pere felt called in a different direction. When he was 20 years old, Pere wanted to become a Catholic priest – a missionary of God.
But, fate had other plans for Pere. At age 57, Pere’s father suffered two heart attacks and needed his eldest son to take over the family winery. Heeding the call of duty, Pere followed in his father’s footsteps instead. Dedicating his life to grapes rather than God, Pere ably led the family business for the next 12 years. Yet, when the pressure from his five brothers became too much to bear, he ceded the company to them in 1982.
Firmly entrenched in the wine industry by now, Pere took the opportunity to launch his own business and thus, Pere Ventura Cava was born. In his devotion to the wine, Pere chose to produce the highest quality Cava, significantly exceeding the minimum aging requirements. Whereas regulations only require 9 months aging on the lees – all of Pere’s wines spend at least 14 months on the lees, with some aged as long as 30 months. This dedication extends to his focus on indigenous grape varieties such as the use of 100% Trepat in the Tresor Rosé.
Moreover, Pere’s ethos is infused throughout the company in his assertion that the only way to build a company is with the truth. Consequently, he places enormous pride on respecting the consumer through his control of all processes from soil to bottle to consumer. This commitment also means that the winery is a member of the Wineries for Climate Protection initiative and works to protect the environment by reducing its carbon and water footprints.
It is clear that Pere takes this responsibility very seriously, putting not only his name, but also a rendering of his handprint, on every bottle. And while he never became a Catholic priest, as a true believer, Pere has become a missionary for Cava, promoting both his brand and the quality of this sparkling wine around the world.
It’s hard enough to remember all of the most well known denominations of Italy, but even harder to keep track of smaller, lesser-known wines from this prolific wine-producing country. Yet, this past Valentine’s Day brought me a little love from Italy in the form of a delicious food and wine event at New York’s Eataly and an introduction to a new wine denomination even for me: Carignano del Sulcis.
Carignano del Sulcis (not to be confused with the Carmignano DOCG of Tuscany) is produced from the Carignano grape, known elsewhere, especially France, as Carignan (and in Spain as Cariñena). Most frequently, this variety is used as a blending partner, but the Carmignano del Sulcis DOC, established in 1989, requires a minimum of 85% of the Cargnano grape, giving it greater prominence that it has elsewhere. Moreover, many wines are produced with 100% of the variety. When blended, the balance is made up of local varieties such as Bovaleddu.
Carignano del Sulcis hails from the island of Sardegna (Sardinia), which is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, situated to the west of the Italian mainland. Located in the southern-most part of Sardegna, Sulcis is the oldest area of the island in geological terms. Here, the Mediterranean climate nurtures the Carignano grape, grown in sandy soils that do not require the vines to be grafted as they are in most regions of the world.
While the average age of the local vineyards are 60-70 years old, some vines are as old as 150, providing low yields, but extremely concentrated fruit. Significant sunlight means the grapes become very ripe, but the high winds and proximity to the sea keep the wines fresh. These are generally intense wines with firm tannins, rich red fruit aromas and flavors and smoky, anise and slight herbal notes. Nicely structured, these wines can be aged for a few years, giving the tannins time to soften.
The wines tasted at a recent winemaker lunch primarily ranged from $20.00-$30.00. The most expensive of the lot was priced at $65.00 and was a more modern-styled wine with darker fruit character and longer aging potential, having spent (comparatively) considerable time in new French oak. The luncheon included a tasting of wines from five different producers: Cantina Mesa, Calasetta, 6Mura, Sardus Pater and Santadi.
Despite their intensity, these wines are at home on the dining table and paired well with a Sardinian-inspire menu of Roasting Winter Squash with Pecorino and a Carignano Reduction, Malloreddus with Sausage and Tomato Sauce and Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Fennel and Potatoes.
Cork is harvested from the bark of trees as a renewable resource. As a readily biodegradable material, the use of cork promotes a sustainable agro-forest system and improves the biodiversity of the ecological environment. This natural material has been used for several centuries as wine closures. It is only as of recent that synthetic corks, and twist of tops have been introduced to the world of wine. To read more about the benefits of each option- read our article all about corks! http://www.wineportfolio.com/sectionLearnWineCorks.html
This solution on how to seal wine bottles brings forth a secondary problem. How do you remove the cork wedged tightly into the neck of the wine bottle?
The corkscrew was originally designed as a worm (the screw) with a Tbar and required manpower to pull it out of the bottle. This would take around 100 pounds of force to pull the cork out. More modern versions of the corkscrew use the models of physics and lever systems to assist with the force.
These wine openers are named for their common use in restaurants by wine stewards or sommeliers. Compared to all other forms of wine openers, theses are small, portable, and safe to keep in your pocket. Surely, you wouldn’t want to keep a traditional corkscrew anywhere near those family jewels. These wine openers have a worm (corkscrew) that unfolds in the center and single or double lever at the end. They often come equipped with a small knife to cut off the foil prior to removing the cork. With some practice it is easy to master this technique!
Butterfly/ Winged Corkscrew
As one of the easier methods, the butterfly or winged corkscrew has a frame with two long arms that move upwards as the worm is screwed in. Removing the cork is as easy as pushing the two arms back down.
Screwpull lever (Rabbit)
Speaking of easy, this model is nearly dummy proof. Doing all the work for you, this is the perfect gift for a new wine drinker. Opening the bottle is as easy as placing it over the neck of the wine bottle, lowering the lever and then raising it back up. I can guarantee you wont’ see a waiter pull one of these large contraptions from their pockets though.
Ah- So/ Twin Prong Cork Puller/ Butler’s Friend
The ah-so wine opener takes the cake for the most difficult to master. This contraption has a handle with two metal prongs that slide into either side of the cork along the inside of the bottle’s neck. With a slow twist and pull, you can pry the cork out. The Ah-So is most practical with older wines, when there is risk that the cork has dried out and could crumble. Since this technique doesn’t require you to puncture the cork, it works to prevent any of the brittle cork from crumbling into the wine.
The twist off cap
Place hand on cap and twist. (And you thought the Rabbit was easy!)
What is your preferred method of cork removal?
Like many highly priced, highly valued commodities, the truffle market has caused a serge in underground trade. European white truffles sell for as much as $3,600 a pound. Recently, a two pound truffle sold for $300,000 in an auction.
This product is being stolen, imitated, being traded in a black market and sold out of the back of trucks. As the premium french product is becoming scarce, they are being threatened by an inferior, cheaper chinese product. In China, rather then using pigs or dogs to sniff out ripe truffles, humans rake through the ground and pick them whenever they find them, without necessarily waiting for the truffles to ripen. This causes the truffles to be void of both taste and smell, or so the story goes.
Sorters at the Urbani factory say that they have found Chineses truffles mixed in with the French products.
This mafia like attitude starts sounding a little like the drug business, doesn’t it!
To understand what that plastic ball or widget is doing floating at the top of your can of beer, we must start off with a short lesson in what makes beer fizz!
Most beers are carbonated with carbon dioxide (CO2). Some of the CO2 is dissolved in the beer and when the can is closed, the pressure inside the can is higher than outside of the can . When you open the can, there is a sudden drop of pressure causing some of the CO2 to bubble out of the beer with the agitation of the pouring. This results in a beer with a thick layer of head on top.
Stout beers like Guinness, which are canned with widgets inside, are pressurized with a mixture of CO2 and nitrogen. Nitrogen is not absorbed into the beer at the same extent as the CO2. While a can of stout beer may have the same pressure as a can of lager, due to its lower CO2 content, it is less fizzy.
Without the widget, a stout like Guinness, would not have a very thick layer of head because most of the CO2 would stay dissolved. The purpose of the widget is to release the dissolved CO2 from the beer, to create more head, giving the beer a creamier longer lasting head, that stout is known for.
The widget is a plastic, nitrogen filled sphere with a tiny hole in it. Just before being sealed, a small shot of liquid nitrogen is added to the beer. During the rest of the canning process, the liquid nitrogen evaporates and pressurizes the can. As the pressure increases in the can, the beer is forced into the widget through the small hole, compressing the nitrogen inside it.
When the can is opened, the pressure drops and the compressed gas in the widget forces the beer out of the plastic ball and into the can. This agitation causes the dissolved CO2 to form tiny bubbles that rise to the top of the beer and form the head!
ENJOY YOUR FROTHY BEER!
Bubbly is a basic when ringing in the New Year – but there are some differences between the different bottles that go “pop”. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know – and pick – to toast with on the stroke of midnight.
To be labelled as Champagne, a wine must be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France – in one of the five districts of The Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. These are the traditional wines chosen to ring in the new year, and include famous brand names like Taittinger (James Bond’s favorite), Bollinger, Perrier-Jouet and Moët & Chandon.
Throughout the world, however, there are thousands of vineyards that produce wine made with the same grapes, and in the same style, as champagne. Although they’re not allowed to label it as such, it has most of the same characteristics and increasingly rival the “original” for quality.
Champagne-style wine is unique because the fermentation process gives it the signature effervescent bubbles. This is achieved by first fermenting grapes in a regular wine vat, and then bottling them and adding additional yeast and sugar. The second fermentation saturates the wine with carbon dioxide; which is what causes the cork to burst out of the bottle upon opening.
Whether produced in Reims, or in any of the hundreds of other sparkling wine regions of the world, the final designation of the wine depends on how much sugar is added after the secondary fermentation to balance the acidity. Doux or demi-sec wine has a high sugar content, while the most popular designation, brut, has very little sugar (and brut nature has none.)
There are other methods for producing sparkling wine, however – and many of these alternatives are equally popular on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps the most popular is the Italian spumante - which is made in a style similar to traditional champagne, but using sweeter grapes, like Moscato. The result is a sweeter wine with a lower alcohol content. An even sweeter and less alcoholic variety is frizzante, which has about as much alcohol in it as beer.
Metodo Italiano is another Italian variety, in which the secondary fermentation is carried out in a stainless-steel vat, rather than in the bottle. The most famous wine made in this style – and one of the most popular alternatives to champagne – is classic Prosecco.
In England and Northern France, a popular sparkling product is Cidre, or Perry. This is made from fermenting apples (in the case of cider) or pears (with perry) to produce a fizzy beverage similar to beer. Perry, especially, is often sold in champagne-style bottles and marketed for celebratory events – so much so that champagne wine producers even attempted to have it banned at the turn of the 21st century. However, neither of these products are strictly “wine” in the classical sense.
The final method for producing sparkling wine is considered “cheating” – so much so that its actually illegal in the European Union. This is because it involves injecting carbon dioxide into traditional white wine – in much the same way bubbles are injected into Coca Cola or lemonade. Although the finished product is undeniably inferior to more traditional “bubbly” wine products, carbonated wine remains a popular – and cheap – alternative to champagne throughout the world (and speaking from experience, some of it’s not all that bad.)
Ultimately, though, whatever you choose to toast 2012 with is less important than those you choose to toast it with – and the hopes and ambitions you have for the coming twelve months. Happy New Year!