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Italy’s Newest Wine: SECCO!

19 Jan

You read that right. There’s a new sparkling wine in town, and its name is SECCO.

Let me give you the backstory, in short: Three Leading Italian Food & Wine Consortiums have just begun a three-year-long nationwide campaign called “Enjoy European Quality”. Now, who is to complain, when they are raising awareness of wines such as Moscato and Secco, salumi such as Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Piacentino, Capocollo di Calabrio, Speck Alto Adige, and cheeses like Provolone Valpadana Dolce and Piccante?

Getting back to ASTI– and ASTI is short for “Consorzio Per La Tutela Dell’Asti DOCG”, which, since its founding in 1932, has worked to protect, develop, and promote ASTI products around the world.

Moving forward, while Moscato has a throng of followers, there are those who aren’t as fond of sweet wines. So as of late 2017, Secco has been given DOCG status. And newly exported from Italy in 2018, is Secco, using the same Moscato Bianco grape, but providing a dry sparkling wine that will appeal to another segment of wine drinkers.

 

After years of drinking Moscato, I know what to expect from the wines, and I’m a big fan. Delicate effervescence, low alcohol (around 5-6% ABV) and a decidedly sweet, sunshine-afternoon, honey-tangerine flavor profile. So imagine my expectations when I heard this is made from the same grape.

But I promise to keep an open mind. Try as I might, it’s difficult to do. Until the decadent mousse and powerful effervescence hits your mouth.

 

 

Tosti ASTI DOCG Secco Non-Vintage; Milan, Italy.  11% ABV.

Color is pale straw; the nose offers sweet honesuckle and lilac. On the palate, a lovely and full effervescence with decadent mousse, exposing a surprisingly dry sparkling wine, with predominantly pear fruit, mixed floral and herb notes, with baking yeast and a lemon custard finish.

 

Well blow me down. This is not my beloved Moscato. It’s only a tiny bit similar, but delightfully different. While I enjoy the sweetness of moscato d’Asti, I would not be able to drink it all day long. But Secco? I could come back and back to this. And the more Secco I tasted, the more I liked them, and saw a place for them in the American Marketplace. 

 

And you will, too, when you taste Secco. 

 

As for food pairings, Secco is dry enough to pair with a wide swath of food choices. But for starters, let’s stay in Piedmont and Italy, and look at what grows together, since we know it goes together!

Salumi is not salami, but the Italian word for ‘deli’. This prosciutto (middle of the plate) is 14 month-aged perfectly salted slice of pork that simply melts in your mouth. As a matter of fact, each of these specialties are the finest of their kind, and culinary delights that make your mouth quiver and your tongue dance and ask for another bite,  Se tu per favore? 


Not to be outdone by meat, is cheese! Provolone Valpadana DOP dolce and DOP piccante, perfectly aged and again, to tease your tastebuds, both provide a perfect swath of gently salted and decadent, savory cream across your palate that Secco wipes clean- to leave your mouth wanting the next bite.

 

Don’t be surprised if Summer 2018 becomes the Summer of Secco!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moscato d’Asti: The Sweetest Pairing

15 Sep

Why don’t we drink moscato d’asti all summer long? It’s a good question. We should!

On a brutally hot day, sometimes the best thing you can do is pop open a bottle of Moscato d’Asti. The gentle effervescence and delicate fruit provides a lovely respite from the hot sun. In the past I mistakenly  viewed moscato d’asti as a dessert wine, but a recent Master Class tasting clearly demonstrated to me where the strength lies with these delightful, low alcohol, and inexpensive wines.

Here’s the thing about moscato d’asti  it offers light acidity, low alcohol, and crisp, clean ripe fruit flavors with floral and herbal aromas. Because fermentation is halted early, sugars that would normally convert into alcohol are left behind in the juice (literally). So the wine is a touch sweeter than a dry riesling, for example, but also has the benefit of being bubbly, another natural occurrence from the fermentation in closed steel tanks.

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I have to admit, I made a mistake in seeing Moscato d’Asti as a dessert wine. At this tasting, I noticed the best pairing came from the wine’s natural complement to savory flavors of cheese, quiche, bread, and mortadella. It left the mouth fresh, lively, renewed. When paired with petit fours, the experience was simply too much sugar at once. But against a savory bite? Perfection! And on a hot day, these wines were refreshing and delightful on the palate, a good way to escape the midday sun.

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Gorgeous setting, but a sweet bite was not the finest pairing for Moscato d’Asti. I preferred savory!

 

 

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A lovely lineup of six Moscato D’Asti wines, all quality, well-made wines from 2015, under $20.

Tasting Notes:

Saracco Moscato D’Asti DOP 2015: ABV 5.5%,  WS Average $15. 

Color is very pale with hints of straw. The nose shows apricot, white pear, and orange peel. On the palate a medium effervescence is met by tangerine and ripe peach.  Sugars are direct and upfront.

 

La Caudrina Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5.5%,  WS Average $15. 

Color is pale straw, nose is decidedly floral with a hint of herbs. On the palate, crisp pear, honeysuckle,  and orange peel are evident. Sugars are back palate.

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Vignaioli Di Santo Stefano- Ceretto Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5,5%, WS Average $17.

Medium straw/goldenrod in color. The nose is subtle with herbs & fruit. Sage, lavender, and white peach. On the palate, light effervescence, dried apricot, golden delicious apple. Sugars are in the mid & side palates. Impressive balance.

 

Coppo SRL Moncalvina Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 4.65%, WS Average $15.

Color is pale straw with a green tinge, the nose is sweet with wildflowers, peach and apricot. In the mouth, baked peach, ripe apple and orange blossoms up front. Sugars are direct and forward in the mouth. This wine fits right into middle, as the median of the six wines tasted.

 

Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015: ABV 5%, WS Average $20.

Color is pale straw, the nose shows citrus, honeyed apricot, and distinct notes of sage and thyme. Light effervescence with tiny bubbles. Fruit is quite delicate in the mouth. A less sweet approach, with gentle apricot and peach, sugars faded to the side palate. Very nice.

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Marenco Vini Scrapona Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2015; ABV 5.5%, WS Average $19.

Pale yellow in color. Nose is most delicate of the wines today: lightly herbaceous with orange blossom. Delicate flavor profile of orange, lime, apricot and peach. Sugars and citrus are firmly in the back palate.

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I enjoyed all of these wines, but personally my favorites were wines #3 and #5 in our tasting (from left to right in the pictures of the glasses): the Vignaioli Di Santo Stefano-Ceretto (the bottle with the elongated neck) and the Michele Chiarlo “Nivole”, both of which had distinct fruit, floral and herbal notes, and sugars that were less noticeable, placed on the side palate.

If you aren’t already a fan, I suggest you try Moscato d’Asti soon, and enjoy it in the afternoon as a refreshing complement to a savory bite. You will be pleasantly surprised how well it pairs with meat or  cheese, how beautifully it blends with creamy flavors, and how the herbs in the wine will pop in harmony with arugula or fresh herbs in a dish.

Let me know what you try!

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Low Alcohol Wines for the Win! JvBUnCorked on Snooth

29 Mar

Another JvB angle for Snooth.com in their low alcohol wine roundup!
Check our the original article here, with just my content shared here. 

As a precursor, allow me to say this: I love being in a community of great wine writers who all have interesting perspectives! I learn a lot from my fellow oenophiles, and this month I had a bunch of “Yes!” responses when I read their portions, as well as a few “hey, I’ve gotta try that!” reactions. I hope you will too, my friends. What else will you want to know: My suggestion might have the lowest alcohol by volume in our group at a shockingly low 5.5%, but just as importantly, the wine is a delight. I loved the flavor profile both by itself and when paired with Thai, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese recipes. And check out that cool bottle! I adored the effervescence in this wine, and plan to have more of it in my cellar when I can make some room. Enough- here’s my piece (below), and make sure you reads the whole article (link above) to see the other cool submissions my collaborators suggested! -JvB

Low Alcohol Wines for the Win

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In an age where we calculate and coordinate our gym music playlists with our daily steps and caloric intake, wine is one of life’s greatest pleasure that sometimes gets put on the chopping block, especially when alcohol and calories are all under consideration. So here is my low alcohol solution with a top-level moscato that clocks in at a mere 5.5%ABV. Yes, you read that right, only five-point-five percent alcohol! I Vignaioli di S. Stefano Moscato d’Asti 2014 is a DOCG moscato from the Ceretto winery in Piedmont that is great for both your body and your taste buds. A beautiful color of afternoon sunlight and medium straw, the nose shows effervescence, honesuckle, and orange blossoms. In the mouth, delightful and delicate bubbles give way to ripe pear, clover honey, sweet apple, and tangerine. A single five-ounce glass has only 137 calories, gently sweet yet with enough acidity and bright fruit flavors to cleanse your palate beautifully through an entire meal from appetizer to dessert.

-Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked.wordpress.com

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à votre santé!

Refreshing Wines for Hot Summer Nights

16 Jun

Ah, summer. The mere word brings joy to our minds. Recall the childhood years when you couldn’t wait until you could escape school. These days, you might relive those moments over again for (or with) your children. And we can’t forget the activities of summer, such as beachgoing, ballgames, hiking and camping, the list goes on and on.

What about the wines of summer?  Some people try to drink the same wines they enjoyed the rest of the year. I suggest you broaden your horizons and try some of the refreshing wines that can open your eyes and palate all summer long.

While pinot grigio, chenin blanc and chardonnay are popular and easy to find, I can’t begin to tell you the joy  you’ll have in finding something delicious and new to add to your repetoire! These are especially ideal for late afternoons and those early evenings on long, sultry, summer nights.  While the pictures may be of specific brands and I have blogged about many of these, today I’ll simply suggest the grape and wine type you look for in your local wine store, and see what you can find! When I’m shopping locally, I like to pick up a bottle (or three) of something new to try at a neighborhood store to drink in the next few days, and order by the case the wines I want to cellar for the future.

 

Albariño– fruity aromas, pear, apple and passion fruit with bright acidity

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Moscato– honeysuckle and orange blossom help make this gently sweet wine a delicious aperitif.

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Riesling– a year-round staple in my home. Simple two to three note wines with gentle fruit, excellent minerality and crisp acidity.

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Rosé– this pink wine made from the red grapes (but without the skins, this can be an incredible ‘bridge’ wine that will work with salads, seafood, soup and steaks.

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Vino Verde– a touch of fizz with citrus, green apple, and pear.

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Viognier– peach, apricot, honeysuckle, and nectarine flavors are common in this grape.

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Please let me know what you try this summer, and how you liked it!

à votre santé!

My Favorite Cheap Wine

27 Oct

Part of my blog’s focus is to introduce my friends & readers not only to new wines to try, but also to great values and sometimes to great classics. Today I’m giving you what I’ve realized has become my go-to cheap bottle of wine.

“It can’t be,” you might be thinking. “JvB choosing ONE wine?”

Haha, No, not a chance. You’re absolutely right. It’s not one wine, it’s one manufacturer.

The Naked Grape is a label that I have come to trust for a really passable $6 bottle of wine. Better yet, they offer a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot noir, a malbec, a chardonnay, a pino grigio, and a moscato, all of which I’ve tried and enjoyed. The last two I have opened are the californian moscato, which has nice pear fruit up front with distinct orange flavor and a sweet tang to it, and the argentinian malbec, a plummy, spicy offering that rocked leftovers, chinese food, & mexican at $1.50 a glass. Really!

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Check out their website here, which sadly demonstrates not a whole lot about this manufacturer. Demand your local shop carry this, like mine does. (Forest Hills residents, I get this at Mayfair Wine & Spirits on Union Turnpike. John carries all of these, right near the register.)

The coolest thing about The Naked Grape is (no, not the cutesy bottle color coding, that ranks third behind #1 value & #2 drinkable) that for 36 bucks you can have SIX different bottle of six different grapes and pair them for what they are with your meals, and then move up to something serious, or know a great cheap bottle of wine that will work beautifully with your meals.

Last but not least: these are all really decent, well-made vin du tables worth serving, but if you don’t like one, it’s less than the cost of a glass at the restaurant, so who cares? You can always toss it, use it in the sauce, or serve it to a drunken guest after they’ve had your good stuff, right?

à votre santé!

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