Merry Christmas❣️🎄🎁🎅🏻💋

And to all a good night! 

The holidays are when we can spend time with those we hold dear in our hearts. Or spend time with those wines we hold dear in our hearts. 

Tonight, HubbyDoug and I are celebrating the season with tried and true picks of LaMarca Prosecco and Elouan Pinot Noir. We’re dining on crab and homemade French Canadian Tourtiere

It’s the simple pleasures that can make the holidays very special. 

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. And may all your pleasures this season be simple and special! 


Cheers! 

 

My New Sparkles for Thanksgiving ✨🍾


This Thanksgiving, I wanted to shake things up a little. Instead of serving three wines; a bubbler, white and a red, I’ve narrowed the field to two: Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Cava and a 2013 Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir.

But wait…what is Cava?

Cava is a dry sparkling wine that is produced in Spain using traditional, indigenous grapes from a several select growing regions. The most renown is North-East Spain, particularly Penedès.  It is made from 2-3 grape varietals: Macabea (the Viura of Rioja), Parellada, and the earthier Xarel-lo. While most wines are named after their growing region, Cava gets its name from the type of wine. Unlike other sparkling wines, it’s made in ‘Mètodo Tradicional’ or the traditional method used in creating Champagne.

I’ve written before about how sparkling wines are made but here’s a little review: The traditional method allows for  the fermentation of wine in the bottle for months (and sometimes years).  Bottles have a crown cap (think beer cap) to withstand the considerable buildup of pressure (corks would just pop at this phase and no one likes premature popping). Bottles are then slanted downward and kept in this postion to allow the yeast to settle in the neck. After a time, the next phase occurs where just the bottle necks are submerged in a freezing solution; freezing just those few inches of wine that contains the yeast. An ice plug is formed trapping the yeast. At this point, the bottle is turned upright, crown cap removed and the pressure from the gas inside the bottle expells the ice plug (don’t try blaming the dog). What remains is the sparkling bottle of perfection which is then corked and cellared. A painstaking process, it takes great care to make sure it all comes out the way it should.

This is how the traditional method differs  from other approaches to making wine sparkle. Non-traditional method means the wine goes through its fermentation in large metal tanks, is then bottled and carbon dioxide added to the mix.

Cava vs Prosecco

Cava has flavors of lemon flavors with a slightly bitter, nuttier quality on the finish with a more full bodied mouth-feel, and floral notes similar to Champagne. It has many qualities similar to Champagne except that it has a more affordable price point. Feel free to put two in your grocery basket.

Prosecco originates from around the Valdobbiadene region of Italy and is a dry, slightly sweeter, complex bubbler. It’s fermented in steel tanks and has light, crisp flavors of pear, peach, yellow apple, and apricot. Like Cava, it is an inexpensive way to get your bubble on and can be mixed without guilt in a bevy of cocktails.

Whatever you choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving, I wish you all a happy and safe holiday!

Cheers!

Happy Easter! 


Much love to you all on this Easter Sunday!

We are starting the day off with beautiful Bellini cocktails. I wish I could say that made them myself, but I decided to make things a little easier with a pre-made concoction from Canella. It is heavenly with our homemade waffles, dijon devilled eggs, hot cross buns, and fresh fruit salad.

Holidays like this allow for time to take stock of the blessings (no matter how small) at play in life.                                Some blessings today: a stellar day in the Cleve 🌞,  healthy and happy family, and wonderful friends on both sides of the border.

I wish you all day rich in joy and chocolate. And a nice bellini cocktail is a great way to start it off. 😄

Cheers!

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 Pérignon, 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??

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2015

 

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

 

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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’t 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 – two 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’s then bottled and then and capped with a temporary ‘soda’ 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!

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2015

Mother’s Day Mimosa Madness (Redux)!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Now that you’ve finished the past 365 days making sure your family have everything they need, it’s time to take a few moments and celebrate…you! And in my book, there’s no better way then to pop the cork of something bubbly and fresh. This year, I wanted to make my brunch-y cocktail with something a little different. Behold ~ the Strawberry Rhubarb Mimosa

What intrigued me about this year’s model was the little bit of ginger that’s simmered in the mix. It gives the sweetness of the strawberry and rhubarb a nice piquant undertone that smolders a little before the bubbles of the Prosecco take over.

Strawberry Rhubarb Mimosa

  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1/3c water
  • 1/2 c diced rhubarb
  • 1/2c diced strawberries
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • Chilled Prosecco
  • Strawberries (garnish)

Combine sugar, water, rhubarb, strawberries and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes until it’s reduced down. It should be viscous but not thick like jelly (if it’s too thick, add a bit of hot water). Remove from heat and cool. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and add lime juice. Puree until smooth. Strain to remove any seeds.          Recipe via nutritioulicious.com.

Before serving, rinse and chill champagne flutes in the freezer to frost. Pour one tablespoon of the mixture in glass, top with Prosecco, garnish with your strawberry.

So now, Moms, sit down. Relax and savor slowly. And for the next two minutes, you are the Queen of everything.

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2015

Double Bubble: Would You, Should You, Decant Your Sparkler?

When you try to catch bubbles in your hand, they burst. Every so often, you can find that delicate balance of keeping the fragile sphere intact for a millisecond … and then…pop! When drinking a sparkling wine, part of the fun is watching the bubbles catch the light, rise, and burst releasing the beautiful aroma. The idea of decanting a sparkler seems to be the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve by drinking it in the first place: the instant gratification of pop, fizz and sip. It’s a little like putting a hot dog on the end of a dog’s nose and making him wait; it delays the fun and you might end up with some drool on your floor.

But decanting might provide a practical way to get the most out of your sparklers. According to Cellarit.com, decanting sparkling wine, helps to soften and open up younger, non-vintage Champagnes. Quite often, your first glass ~ without decanting ~ may not be as compelling and rich. It may be served too chilled (limiting the aromatics) and may not have opened up enough on first pour to bring out the full flavors. Decanting may help to make your first glass as impressive as your last. For older vintages, many experts insist that decanting is simply not necessary; the wine, with all its depth, nuances and facets, will stand on its own. Only one pour is required.

But wait. Not just any decanter will do if you want to wrangle the bubbles. The lyre decanter is preferred since the pour is more gentle, allowing for the delicate release of the aromatics while preserving the mousse. The key is also in the actual pour into the decanter itself; too fast (rapid aeration) and you’ll quickly lose the effervescence. So be careful and take your time. Sparkling wines, especially Champagnes, are very delicate creations and need a little TLC before you enjoy them. Once decanted, Champagne should be consumed within thirty to sixty minutes to enjoy the conscious coupling of the effervescence and full flavor.

In the cover photo above, I am pouring in the worst way possible. Splashing around does not protect the sparkler but it made for a more interesting picture for me to shoot. I have learned my lesson and shall sin no more. My first resolution of the new year!

Flute, Coupe or … Chard?

As for the appropriate glass with which to serve, current arguments exist for and against a variety of shapes.

  • The traditional coupe Champagne glass (rumored to be shaped like Marie Antoinette’s breast) may have the right idea in terms of a better surface area to enjoy the aromatics but because of the width at the top, the wine quickly loses effervescence.
  • The flute is designed to keep the bubbles in tact and many have a small etching in the bottom to highlight the journey of the bubbles up to the top ~ it’s what gives the ‘necklacing’ effect that’s so pretty. But what you gain in beauteous bubbles, you lose in true appreciation of the wine essence; it’s difficult to get your nose into the flute to experience the subtle aromas.
  • The classic Chardonnay or White wine glass, is gaining more appeal for experts who maintain that the larger shape, and delicate taper, provides more surface area for the fragrance of the Champagne to truly open and display its brilliance. But because there is a larger bowl and no unique etching (it’s not needed for non-sparkling wine) bubbles burst much more quickly. In other words, you get more steak, if you will, but not as much spectacular sizzle.

The choice is yours, ultimately, and there is a vast variety of glasses to suit whatever taste, budget and reason for drinking Champagne and sparkling wine.

I do not have a Lyre-shaped decanter at my home. At $600 a pop, that may be a purchase down the road, but I will try decanting my Champagne tonight, anyway. As any good student will tell you, the fun is in the experimenting. And like the puppy with the hot dog on his nose, I will wait patiently…and try not to drool on the floor.

Whether you decant your Champagne, drink it out of a Chardonnay glass, flute, shoe (yuck) or paper cup, I wish you all a safe, happy New Year’s Eve, and the very best in 2015!

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2014