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The One Wine Region You Need for New Year’s Eve: Alsace!

26 Dec

New Year’s Eve & Champagne. Take my half-century of experience on this earth and let’s boil it down.

Everyone should drink more Champagne (and for you winelovers and those who are still learning: that includes everything that is like champagne but not from that region.) So we include sparkling wine- which is the beautiful  bubbly made any place outside of the Champagne region.

 

For decades, I’ve been attending New Year’s Eve parties with several bottles in hand, served everything from vintage champagne to premier cru champagne to blanc de noir to well, you name it, I’ve served it. I pour tastes, watch people’s reactions, and then see what they want afterwards. It’s not always pretty. But this year, I’m sharing my results.

 

Q: What have I found, over decades of research?
A: Go middle ground, or face the music.

“Que?” You ask? “What music?”

The music, in this instance is this refrain: go middle ground, or guests will choose something else to drink. 

1) Don’t spend money on high end bubbly unless it is what YOU want to drink. Unless they are serious oenophiles, the rest of the people at the party won’t appreciate it the same way. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably choose something else to drink. How do I feel when I bring a $150 bottle and people taste it, and then choose to drink something else? Quite simply, it is wrong to bring something rare for people who can’t appreciate it.

2) Don’t buy the cheap stuff. Sorry André and Barefoot. But most folks will taste, and then choose something else. Don’t worry, it’s not a lot more. Grow from those $7 bottle, and prepare for a whole $12 per bottle, ok? Even you, my beloved 21 year old daughter and your Legal but Still New to Drinking Buddies.

3) Your bottom of the barrel should be a nice prosecco, which can be had in the $15 range. (Yes, soccer moms, some are $12.99 on sale!) But don’t go far from that range. Well, if you love the Barefoot, that’s cool. But bring a bottle of prosecco or Cremant D’Alsace for the REST of the party, m’kay?

Here’s a link from Vivino to their 20 Most Popular Prosecco Wines, with average retail pricing. It’s got La Marca (Non-Vintage) for $11.97. This is totally acceptable, and people will drink it.

4) Don’t bother with Veuve, unless you KNOW people will love it. I know a few people who adore it. I know more who tolerate it, because it’s VERY consistent. But you can get brilliant grower champagne or a lovely premier cru Champagne  in that ballpark. You, smart shoppers, would not spend $50 on a dish of Spaghetti-O’s when you can have the filet mignon at the same price, right? So Unless it’s what you love, skip it!

5) Here are the key words that will raise your game: Cremant d’Alsace. These are French sparkling wines from the region of Alsace, and I’m a HUGE fan of Cremant d’Alsace Brut rosé (see below).

Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. Oh yes, my precious! 

 

Better yet, you’ll find these sparkling wines in the range of $15-35/bottle. And most of them, you’ll find in the $15-20 range. Sherry-Lehman has five wines from this region, all from $16.95-19.95. Total Wine lists six Cremant d’Alsace wines from $17-25 in the 750ml size.

These bottles, I have found, are made with a very good quality, and at this price point provide a tremendous QPR (Quality:Price Ratio) which in wine equals HUGE VALUE. But you can ignore that for the moment. Because in the decades of pouring and watching reactions, what I have seen is that people simply ask for more. It’s pink, it’s dry, it’s French, (maybe none of that comes into play.) It’s delicious, and THAT comes into play.

Most importantly, you’ll find these wines are beautifully crafted, will work alone OR pair well with food, and more importantly, they are crowd pleasers. You want something fun to drink? This is where you need to be! 

 

And, last but not least:

6) Get out and taste. Where do you shop? Call and see when they’re doing their New Year’s tasting. A sip of a couple of sparkling wines, or even a decent Champage, might turn you on to something wonderful for yourself, or you New Year’s Eve party.

Copyright 2019 Jim van Bergen / JvBUnCorked

 

à votre santé!

Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts, with the link below.

Going, Going, Gone! Prosecco Superiore DOCG

16 Oct

Prosecco Superiore 4Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

There’s only one question to ask: Why aren’t you drinking more of it? 

OK, I have to admit it: every year I get emails from various garagiste-wine vendors with deals on Prosecco Superiore DOCG. And I always buy them. Why? Because they are consistent in being crowd-pleasers and excellent value. They don’t last long in my cellar. And when I open them for friends, the bottles are empty almost quickly as they started: Going, Going, Gone! 

Prosecco 101: It’s Italian. It’s from mostly glera, an ancient Roman grape that classically exhibits both floral and fruit notes.  There is less yeast flavor in prosecco than champagne, due to the fact that it’s usually made in the charmat method of secondary fermentation in steel tanks, which helps in focusing those floral and fruit notes. And a good bottle of prosecco is a bargain, a bottle will usually run you from one-third to one-half the cost of a good bottle of champagne. DOCG refers to Italian regulations, confirming the highest quality terroir and strictest regulations, which is a promise of quality- DOCG is the top level, above both DOC and IGT regulations. Unlike serious champagne which should only ever be consumed singularly, it is considered acceptable, event cool to drink cocktails made with prosecco. The Bellini started it all, but any good bartender has a few recipes up their sleeves, including yours truly (see mine below) or find several hundred ‘easy to make at home’ with a quick internet search!

Here are four DOCG proseccos that are ‘any day celebration’ bottles with SRP’s from $15-$21 that will improve your day significantly! Click the blue links for the manufacturer’s winemaking notes (you can also see how we differ or agree on flavor profiles), or you can just read mine!

 

 

Frassinelli Rive di Manzana Extra Dry 2015 

Frassinelli Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG 2015; – (ABV 11.5%; SRP: $15)

Gentle floral nose with hint of orchid. Pale straw in color with gentle, tiny bubbles. On the palate: white peaches, a hint of baked apple, fresh croissant, grilled pineapple, and clay. Highly agreeable. I offered this to friends and in moments, we had devoured the entire bottle and were ready for more!

 

 

 

 

Bortolomiol Prior Brut 2015

Bortolomiol Prior Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG – (ABV 12%; SRP $15)

Off-gold color with a tinge of green and a neutral, lemon citrus nose. On the palate: green apple, lemon verbena, &  sandstone. I enjoyed this by itself, but with a crazy whim and the help of some flowers and a mortal & pestle, I made a hibiscus & prosecco cocktail (prosecco with a dash of the juice of a hibiscus flower), and was in seventh heaven. This prosecco is absolutely delicious by itself and almost a crime to tweak, but in adding the touch of hibiscus flavor, I found a new favorite floral sparkling cocktail and I killed the bottle quickly with this tasty spritz!

 

 

La Farra Rive di Farra di Soligo Extra Dry 2015

La Farra Rive fi Farra di Soligo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – (11% ABV; SRP $20)

Pale yellow with the slightest hint of pink. Extra dry, this prosecco features a more forward floral nose, with a much heavier concentration of bubbles from the charmat fermentation method. The expansive mouthfeel features a white flesh fruit profile of yellow apple, peach, and lime zest.

 

 

 

Mongarda Brut NV 

Mongarda Brut NV Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore– (SRP: $21), 11%ABV

Pale straw in color, gentle nose of minerals and yeast. Beautiful effervescence, a touch more acidity to balance the lime, peach, and lemon citrus flavor profile. Elegant; ideal to drink by itself or to pair with a meal. This bottle also went far too quickly for me.

 

 

 

What do we learn from these bottles? They are quite tasty,  superbly fun, with gentler bubbles making them easy to imbibe, so they finish quicker. They are delicious by themselves, and  provide a party atmosphere when mixed with a tiny bit of flavor, or paired with food. They are affordable, and a touch on the lower side in alcohol by volume.

And remember, they are just as easy to pick up at your local retailer as anything else you might find.

Share your comments and your favorite sparkling with us, below!

 

à votre santé!

 

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
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A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

los vascos

This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

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Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

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The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Prosecco for Anytime? Prosecco for Everytime!

13 Apr

Montelvini Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Veneto, Italy. 12%ABV.

Sample provided by Studio Cru, International Wine PR, Vicenza, Italy.

There are people who think about drinking sparkling wine for special occasions, and there are people who want to drink sparkling wine all the time. GET READY to want to drink it all the time, because with this one, you can.

On a short, slightly squat bottle design is a beautiful gold and black label that says “Venegazzù Montelvini Asolo Prosecco Superiore Millesimato DOCG”. That’s all lovely. And then you put a glass of this elixir to your lips and have a sip, and then you say “Oh… that’s GOOD!” And you offer a glass to everyone near you, who taste it. Surprised, they too, exclaim, “Oh! That’s GOOD!” And ask you what it is. And you can only reply in your best James Bond voice, “It’s Montelvini Asolo Prosecco. Would you care for some more?”

Asolo

This is my exact experience. After my own taste, everyone I shared this with was impressed, and why not?  A bubbly the color of morning straw, the dry nose gives away little. In the mouth, there is a linear minerality, a delicate layer of white fruit, creaminess, and a distant hint of ripe peach sweetness that makes this an incredibly satisfying sparkling wine that is a mega crowd-pleaser. This blend of qualities also allows this sparkling wine to pair with just about anything, from appetizers to entrees, from afternoon sunshine to midnight moonlight- without breaking the bank. When I googled the Asolo Prosecco, I found a supplier that would ship to my state at a price so low (about $15/bottle) that I was honestly shocked. At this price, I could buy by the case and just keep two bottle cold all the time, to drink whenever- the way good bubbly should be enjoyed!

When I used to think about drinking sparkling wine, James Bond would pop up: the suave-as-hell guy who orders beluga and champagne. He has two bites of caviar, grabs the bottle, two glasses and a super-hot girl and he’s off to the bedroom. But now I can think of not only the white dinner-jacket clad Bond, but also the birthday party, the office celebration, the “because it’s Tuesday” or “just because I love you” with great value, without breaking the bank- because of  Venegazzu Montelvini Asolo Prosecco. And you can, too! Because once you taste it, you’ll also be impressed enough to say, “Oh… thats GOOD!”

This is a prosecco for any time, that will be a hit every time.

Montelvini

 

Imported to the USA by Wine In-Motion LLC, Union NJ.

 

à votre santé!

 

Prosecco? Please! Carpene Malvolti Cuvée Brut DOCG

2 Aug

Carpene Malvolti Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco

This is a dry sparkling wine, made using the Italian ‘Charmat method’ (if you’ve never heard of this and you’re interested, read about it here).

Almost clear in color with the slightest color of pale straw, the flavor is effervescent with a slight citrus nose, vanilla and touch of green apple on the tongue. This is a delightfully gentle palate cleanser that maintains its personality as the temperature warms slightly and is delicious from start to finish.

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My stage manager buddy Lurie Pfeffer is a huge fan of prosecco and her interest made me reconsider this sparkling wine in general, to which I now must say- Champagne? I probably will not indulge when offered. But prosecco? I probably will! Many proseccos (but the Carpene Malvoti’s DOCG Cuvée Brut in particular) are still slightly acidic yet less dry and have a delicious, cleansing taste that make you want to keep sipping over and over, whereas a brut champagne needs something else to make it special- a cube of sugar, a tiny spoonful of caviar, strawberries and cream perhaps. Not so with Carpene Malvolti, it was amazing first on its own, then with a warm slice of buttered bread, even more as a foil to my appetizer of fish tacos. I’ll be keeping this prosecco up my sleeve for future use, and urge you to seek it out if you need a sparkling wine.

Purchased in a restaurant by the individual serving for $9, I have seen it online from $9/375ml half bottle, and $13-18/750ml bottle.

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From their own website:
http://www.carpene-malvolti.com/index.php?area=86&menu=134&lingua=1

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