Archive for November, 2008


Sparkling wines for a great New Year


Who could possibly imagine  toasting in the New Year with fizzy soda? I’m willing to bet that the audible sound of popping corks will usher in 2009. And just as  certain colors are significantly attached to holidays – red and green for Christmas, pink for Valentine’s Day – Champagne is the supreme choice as a celebratory quaff.  Revelers delight in the wine’s magical effervescence. watching bubbles rise in the glass, aware of the ring of foamy mousse ready to tickle the tongue.  Its visual charm is heralded by a beautiful range of pale to medium gold to a delicate rosé. Champagne struts its stuff in a tall, tapered, clear flute, better than the old coupe that is better for fruit salad than wine. The flute should be clear, without etching or ornamentation, so all the special attributes of the wine are enhanced.

Most consumers find it a fabulously friendly complement to most foods as well as a great aperitif. A special aperitif mixes a dollop of Creme de Cassis with a glass of sparkling wine.  

La Methode ChampenoiseSparkling wine is difficult to make and complicated to understand, but a few helpful hints make it easy. Only Champagne may bear that distinguished title, originating in the eponymous region in France. All other areas producing wine with bubbles are required to be labeled sparkling wine, bearing names that indicate country of origin, like Prosecco from Italy, or Sekt from Germany.

Sparkling wines fall into two general groups: Blanc de Noirs, a classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier that produces a pale golden wine, sometimes tinged a gentle pink. Blanc de Blancs is always 100% Chardonnay.

          Styles depend on the amount of sugar in the wine. Brut has the lowest amount of sugar. Extra Dry is a misnomer, because it is marginally sweeter than Brut. Sweeter Demi-sec is perfect with Asian food, chocolate, crème caramel, and other desserts. Doux  is the sweetest treat of all.

          It’s not necessary to take out a mortgage to find a great bubbly. Try Mumm Napa Valley, Domaine Chandon, Freixenet, or St. Hilaire, a excellent choice from the Languedoc region of France, or Iitaly’s Spumante or Prosecco . Ring in the New Year by toasting loved ones and friends with a sparkling wine with bountiful good wishes for good health, happiness, and peace.


New Kosher Wines


For decades, Americans coupled their Passover dinners with sticky, sweet wines made from tart domestic grapes laden with copious amounts of sugar. Happily, today kosher wines are vastly different, vinified with modern techniques. This holiday season, welcome guests with a cornucopia of reasonably priced bottles from great wine-producing regions, made with exacting rabbinic supervision, some mevushal, and others not. The choices are close to mind-boggling, promising a adventure and great taste that marry well with the complicated and delicious celebratory meal.

Matching wine to gefilte fish requires special consideration. What to pick? Melon and pear flavors of crisp Israeli Carmel Valley Riesling/Chenin Blanc blend ($8) is perfect, as is the award-winning Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc ($8). Other lovely possibilities are a spicy, floral Verbau Gewurtztraminer (14.99), typical of this delicious Alsatian varietals, or Chateau Sarget de Gruaud la Rose (75.00). 

Either Israeli Barkan Reserve Merlot (19.99), a full-bodied Herzog Special Reserve California Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), Backsberg Pinotage ($13.99) from South Africa, or the Teal Lake Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99) from Australia, all tasting of some combination of dark berry, spice, and oak notes, fit the bill as excellent companions to chicken, pot roast, lamb or duck.

If family or friends insist a sweet wine as an accompaniment, try Joseph Zakon Muscatini, produced in Italy (10.99).  For those willing to break the bank, reach for (non-mevushal) Superieur Cabernet Sauvignon (75.00) or the prestigious Bordeaux label, Chateau Leoville-Poyferre (150.00). Premium red wines have classic Bordeaux qualities of complex nuances of cherry, dark red fruits, chocolate, oak, and anise.

The old holiday standbys, Manichewitz and Kedem Concord Grape Wines, can be poured over fruit or as a coulis around sponge or honey cake. After dinner, relax with a glass of unctuous Chateau Piada Sauternes (45.00). Look for these wines, and those of California producers, Gan Eden and Weinstock Cellars, at Tenafly’s Wine Ventures, and Carlo Russo Wine & Spirit World in Fort Lee, and other wine shops.



Cooking With Wine

Whether cooks find relief in the backyard barbecue or are chained to an indoor stove during summer’s dog days, cooking with wine is still a hot priority. Wine adds sizzle and depth of flavor to recipes on or off the grill. Decades ago, it was acceptable to use supermarket cooking wine without worrying about a cork or storage. It had the shelf life of an Egyptian mummy, with salt to equal the Dead Sea, and probably loaded with preservatives. Years ago, my favorite recipe called for a can of mushroom soup, peeled and deveined shrimp, sautéed onions, and a substantial dash of supermarket cooking wine. In those halcyon days, when Jell-o was an acceptable dessert, we loved its exotic flavors although it left us as thirsty as though we had crossed a desert. 

Today, cooking’s Golden Rule insists we abjure wines we wouldn’t drink. Poof, no more bottled cooking wine. But now we’re faced with which wine? At what price? Does a fish dish demand a white wine. No, no, no. Does a meat recipe imply a red? No, again. Surprisingly, an inexpensive red or white wine adds a delightful soupçon of complexity to recipes, especially once it cooked down and the alcohol evaporated. Therefore, check the amazing range of inexpensive, attractive wines from around the world, or pick up Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck or a bag-in-the-box Franzia. Almost any wine adds richness to soup or stew, or to a marinade for meat or fish ready for the grill. Dry white Vermouth is yet another alternative.

Julia Child’s secret for leftover wine will appeal to frugal chefs.  Do not shrink in dismay at her suggestion to freeze leftover wine in the re-corked bottle or decanted in into another container to be used another day. Defrosted wine is undrinkable, but tastes mighty good when added to meat, poultry and fish. Spices, herbs, and other flavorings will mask wine’s distinct flavors, leaving a delightful hint of its memory, like a woman who knows exactly how much perfume to wear without overwhelming the air around her.

November 2008
    Mar »

Recent Entries