Celebrating Women of the Vine ūüć∑‚öóūüĒ¨

To honor International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I revisited Women of the Vine, an inspiring book by Deborah Brenner. In it, she examines a varied cross section of women who are making great strides in what has been, over centuries, a male dominated profession. 

Some of the women profiled came into their calling dynastically (Stephanie Gallo), some discovered their passion along the way ~ punching down the cap of discrimination  (Merry Edwards) to have a satisfying career, and one blended her love of science and unique ability to identify aromas and tastes (Dr. Ann C. Noble). 

To create exceptional wine that stands the test of time, it’s a marriage of science, instinct, wisdom, and perseverance. These women understand that very well. 

From sommelier to winemaker to marketing, to creating the wine aroma wheel, Women of the Vine gives an interesting perspective for all wine lovers, and also for girls studying science who may be looking for an alternative in science-based careers. 


Where Y’at?! Mardi Gras Crawl @Flats East Bank

It was a day of ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ before we finally decided that we should. And though we were tardy, we didn’t get detention. The Mardi Gras Crawl at the Flats East Bank ¬†yesterday was too much fun to resist. But we had to streamline our crawl. We narrowed it down to three: The Big Bang Bar, Alley Cat Oyster Bar and Crop Rocks. Signature drinks of the day were the Elsa shot (in a flashy glass) and Mardi Gras classic the Hurricane.

Did we see a lot of people having fun? Yes! Did we flash anyone for beads? No! It was too chilly. Although, after I came back from the bar with our drinks, I noticed HubbyDoug had more beads than me. Hmmmm…

Wherever your plans take you for Mardi Gras, be safe, have fun, and let the good times roll!


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©TheWineStudent, 2016






Buggin’ Out on a Saturday Night

“I don’t eat bugs”, was the text response from my friend Shelly when I mentioned the bug and wine pairing event at Spaces Gallery. I admit, the thought of an evening of bug eating made me feel like a contestant on Fear Factor. But this is a brand new year, and why not try something new?

Spaces planned this edible cricket tasting event to coincide with their exhibit from The People’s Museum of Revisionist Natural Itstory about seeking narrative justice, by confronting and questioning norms perpetuated through our culture. The exhibit also speaks to the viewer, as a consumer of culture and information, to question those norms and ‘not readily accept them as facts.’ The evening’s cricket experience was designed to address those concepts, as well as illuminate issues of sustainability in a meat and potatoes culture.

Big Cricket Farms, founded in 2014 by Kevin Bachhuber, is aiming to corner the gourmet protein market, as “America’s first urban cricket farm.” According to their site, crickets are a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources, such as beef. Crickets are a tasty (?), cost effective way to have your protein and crunch it, too. These crickets are quite different than the ones I occasionally see my cat take down. Slightly smaller in size, the Tropical Banded Cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) are an edible variety having the identical nutritional components to their larger counterparts. Since you are what you eat, Big Cricket edible crickets are fed a diet of organic grains and fruit and vegetables. A happy meal, indeed.

Stacked up against other sources of protein (grams/100 g), including beef and seafood, insects provided a huge nutritional punch; with Chapulines (Mexican grasshopper) coming in the heaviest hitter with 35-48%. Beef paled in comparison at only 10-15%. Chapulines are harvested only a few times a year and after being cleansed, are toasted with lime juice, salt, agave worm extract and, occasionally, chili.

Insects are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins( with the exception of B12~ beef won in this category); minerals such as copper, sodium, iron, zinc and potassium, and rich in amino acids.

In the video presentation of Kevin Bachhuber’s TEDx talk, he explained the importance of biodiversity, especially in food sourcing. He explained and how consuming insects (namely crickets) makes for a more humane way of acquiring sustenance while maintaining a healthy ecological footprint. Insects emit far fewer greenhouse gasses than livestock, and consume much less water.

So now… time to eat. I knew I had to just dig in, and take a bite. Over-thinking just made me more squeamish. In the salsa, with crunchy chips, they weren’t too bad: The crunch of the chips masked the crunch of …well you get it. I began to feel brave at this point. Then came the mac and cheese… with cricket sprinkled throughout. This made some of us at the table wince a little. But we knew what we’d signed up for, there was no going back. One of our table mates described the flavor as ‘wheat berry‘, and thought the crunch could be likened to the crunchy topping you’d find on any gourmet mac and cheese dish. Jay, a new friend, suggested the taste was like grain but fairly bland. I wondered then, if perhaps crickets functioned a little like tofu: Lots of bland goodness on its own, but taking on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. Shelly was not impressed. By the time dessert of caramel cricket apples and ice cream came around, most of the crickets remained uneaten on her plate. I give her full marks, she did try a few bites.

To be honest, at this event, the wine chosen for the pairings came in a distant second. It was all about the bug. And that was ok. Shelly and I enjoyed our 2012 Mercedes Eguren Cab Sauv. The rich blackberry essence provided a lovely light-acid balance to the creamy(and crunchy) mac and cheese.
As I pushed back from the table, I couldn’t help but admire this adventurous group as dinner came to a close. And given what we’d just eaten, the question, ‘is anything stuck in my teeth?’ had a whole different vibe.

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©TheWineStudent, 2016









The Jackpot Question in Advance: What Are You Drinking New Year’s Eve?¬†

“Maybe it’s much too early in the game, but I thought I’d ask you just the same…”

This New Year’s, HubbyDoug and I are keeping it simple at home with chicken and tempura vegetable fondue and prosecco.¬†While I’d love to bring on 2016 with a big bottle of Dom P√©rignon, I’ll be the only one drinking it; ¬†HubbyDoug’s not a fan of champagne. And drinking the entire bottle myself probably won’t lead to a very happy New Year’s Day.

I chose prosecco for dinner over traditional champagne because of the lighter, more floral | fruit vibe it brings to the party. Since dinner will take a couple of hours to meander through, I figure I can pace myself nicely until midnight.

But when the Times Square ball drops, I’ll treat myself to a split of Vueve Clicquot. It’s my little gift to me to bid the old year adieu, and welcome in the promise of a brand new year.

Now… What are you drinking New Year’s Eve??


©TheWineStudent, 2015


Pop! Getting the Fizz into Your Favorite New Year’s Sparkler



Your bubbly is chilling, the perfect glasses shimmer waiting for the strike of twelve and the pop of the cork. But what exactly makes your sparkling wine the effervescent delight you save for special occasions? The answer lies in the method.

The classic method is commonly used for the fermentation of sparkling wines, (Champagne, Prosecco, Moscato D’Asti and Cava). While many grapes are picked when the sugar content is fairly high, Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) are picked earlier when sugar levels are low and acidity is high. The juice of the grapes is pressed off early to ensure little skin contact which keeps the wine white.The first fermentation occurs the same way as all wine, converting the natural sugar in the grapes to alcohol while the carbon dioxide is allowed to escape, producing the base wine. Because of the higher acid content, the wine at this point isn‚Äôt very tasty. The blend or assemblage occurs, using base wines from various vineyards and occasionally, vintages.

Primary fermentation begins as soon as yeast is added to the must (the freshly pressed grapes). And like a party of kids hopped up on pixie stix, in this phase there is a lot of activity; lots of foam, and crazy bubbling. The yeast at this point grows quickly because of the sugar, nutrients and oxygen. Up to 70% of the total amount of alcohol is produced during this phase which lasts about three-five days. This is known as aerobic fermentation because the fermentation vessel is left open to air.

When secondary fermentation occurs, there is no more oxygen and sugar is minimal which now makes it anaerobic fermentation, where air must be kept at a minimum. This allows the yeast to give its energy to making alcohol. Alcohol levels then rise to the point where any remaining yeast dies off. Secondary fermentation can last between one Рtwo weeks and produces 30% alcohol. It’s the most important part of the whole process in making sparkling wines, it is the only way to produce a fully sparkling wine.

At this time it’s a mixture of still wine, sugar, yeast and a clarifying agent. It‚Äôs then bottled and then and capped with a temporary ‚Äėsoda‚Äô cap to allow for the further addition of yeast and sugar. These components then react with one another, creating the fermentation inside the bottle. Fermentation then converts the sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is now trapped inside the bottle, infusing the wine with bubbles.

There are other ways that bubbles can be infused into sparkling wines:

  • Carbon Dioxide Injection ~ (the soda pop method)
  • Metodo Martinotti ~ pioneered by Federico Martinotti, and adapted by Eugene Charmot in 1907, and used specifically for Prosecco and Moscat D’Asti, secondary fermentation occurs in bulk tanks and is then bottled under pressure.
  • Methode Champenoise ~ effervescence is produced by secondary fermentation within the bottle as above but this is specifically used to produce Champagne.
  • Transfer Method ~ which takes the wine blend to bottle for secondary fermentation, which increases the complexity. but then transfers the wine out of the individual bottles into a larger tank after spending the desired amount of time on yeast.

So now that we’ve established how the bubbles get there, what is the difference between Champagne, Prosecco and Cava? Bubbles are bubbles, right? No. No they are not.

Here’s the basic break down:

Champagne ~France ~ Secondary fermentation occurs in the sealed bottle. Grape varietal(s)~ Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. The flavors have a tendency to be more complex and rich. While it can be more expensive, many lovers of this sparkler wouldn’t have it any other way. They are very loyal to their bubbles and to their brand. Notable brands: Dom Perignon, Vueve Cliquot, Moet and Chandon, Pierre-Jouét.             $60-$300+. Moderately priced Champagne will run between $60-$80.

Prosecco ~ Italy ~ Secondary Fermentation occurs in the Martinotti-Charmot method: occurring in large vats and then being transferred to bottle once fermentation is complete. Grape varietal: glera. Steadily gaining traction in the sparkly bubbles market, Prosecco is becoming becoming well-known among Millenials who prefer a price-friendly, lighter, fruit-forward bubbler. LaMarca, Sensi. $14-$30.

Cava ~ Spain ~ Large vat secondary fermentation is the prime method for Cava. Varietals include: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes. A lighter vibe (and price) is again why many choose Cava as an alternative sparkler to Champagne. Freixenet, Segura Viuda. $12-$20

Whether you choose Champagne, Prosecco, ¬†Cava, or sparkling cider, I hope you have an amazing New Year’s Eve and a spectacular 2016!


©TheWineStudent, 2015

Holly Jolly!

When times become whirlwind, and commitments take center stage, our pleasures sometimes get moved to the background. The past few weeks, I haven’t had much opportunity to sit down, get centered ¬†and write, although I’ve made note of many wine subjects I will be exploring in upcoming posts.

But I wanted to take advantage of these few quiet moments to thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to research and write about a subject that’s time-honored, ¬†yet constantly evolving. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. And I thank you for taking this journey with me.

Happiest of holidays to you!

Tricks and Treats: my top picks for Hallowe’en ’15!¬†

The witching hour is nigh! And to celebrate, I narrowed down my choices this year to two bewitching vintages. The label art had a little to do with it. But what was listed on the label was most intriguing.

I offer up to you, in no particular order (and also because I haven’t tried them… yet) ~ my top two Hallowe’en wine picks!

2012 Alma Negra M Blend¬†(black soul) ~ a blend so mysterious, they don’t even list what’s in it! Which, frankly, is what piqued my curiosity. A little trip into the catacombs to research was indicated. Grape varietals in this blend are Bonarda and Malbec. Oh, the skeleton references i could make about Bone-arda (bad pun = everybody sip). Bonarda, described¬†as the ‘workhorse’ grape of Argentina, produces large yields is lighter-bodied than Malbec yet fruit forward with flavors of cherry, plum with moderate acid and light tannins. This vintage was aged eight months in 50% American – 50% French oak barrels.

 2014 Sinister Hand ~ This spirited vintage, while young, is made in the Rhone style, blending Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Prone to rot in damp conditions (think nasty zombie),  Cinsault thrives in hot appellations. When added to Rhone, it adds structure, perfume and softness, making this offering sound beautifully complex indeed.

Anyone who loves a good horror story can tell you, it’s not the simple tale that’s spine-tingling. It’s the one that builds, and has complex twists and turns that are the most satisfying.

The real trick for me will be to not rip into these treats before Hallowe’en!

©TheWineStudent, 2015