Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sweet Wine or Dry Wine? Dry Wine or Sweet Wine?

SEVEN!  We have talked about wine for SEVEN different posts without even tasting it yet..that seems sorta criminal doesn't it?  I mean it's almost rude of me to make you wait that long to taste wine.  However, it's a good thing I promise.  Your primary senses have now been prepped.  You've visualized and breathed in the scent of the wine and through those acts, you know so much.  You've learnt about how old the wine is, you've prepped for what flavors may present, you may even know the type of grape.  You're ready to dive in.

When we taste wine- take a small sip and let it sit on your tongue for just a couple of seconds and it will settle naturally in your mouth, then swallow.  Under 5 seconds for all of it.  Every time, that first sip of wine gets me.  My mouth lights up- it immediately reacts to acidity, to alcohol, to the body, to the tannins and to the flavors that are ever present.  Wine has so many different facets to showcase, your mouth has to play catch up a bit.  We allow it time to catch up by taking it piece by piece- starting with the age old - dry or sweet. 

When we're talking about a dry wine or a sweet wine, at its core, we are talking about how much residual sugar is left in the wine from the grapes that made it. You remember those grapes- similar to the ones you snack on- sweet and bursting with flavor.  Well when you convert the right types of grapes to wine yeast eats the sugar in the grapes and makes alcohol.  Sometimes a winemaker might stop this process a little early and that leaves what we know as "residual sugar".  You'll taste this sugar in the wine and, depending on how much is left behind, you might end up with an off dry, semi sweet or sweet wine.  

Now here's the thing- we want to be mindful of this residual sugar when pairing food with wine.  As a general rule of thumb- always try to match a wine and food so that, if necessary, the wine has more sugar than the dish does.  If your food has more sugar to it than your wine, you may risk making that wine taste bitter or harshly astringent.  

So if you're having a meal with very little sugar- which would account for many of our roasted chickens, salads, sandwiches, soups etc, than the driest of wines will do, but say you prepare lamb with a cherry glaze- you'll want to pair a wine with that with a bit of sweetness to it.  Wines grown in warmer climates, and those Rieslings are great for having a perfect range of sweetness to them.  The other key pairing note?  Spicy food LOVES a sweeter wine!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sweden's Greetings, Happy Holidays

Ladies and gentlemen we have a paradigm shift!  No longer do Bourbon and Whiskey rule the oak infused liquor shelf- heavyweight Absolut has stepped into the ring! That's right, vodka is stepping up its game and giving our winter cocktails a run for their money with Oak by Absolut.

But it’s only in a few select markets – and Boston is one of the lucky ones.

Utilizing a quick aging on a combination of American and Swedish oak as well as former bourbon barrels, the vodka takes on subtle flavor. Notes of chocolate, caramel and toasted oak make Oak by Absolut incredibly malleable.  Paired with almost anything or served on its own, versatility is its knockout punch. Below are some inspirations for everyone in Boston looking to enjoy some festive and delicious cocktails at home.

Fall Harvest

I'm never quite ready to abandon the light crispness of summer white wines when the temperature begins its descent, so I created this fall inspired sangria, utilizing a robust rose wine to help ease the transition.

o   1 bottle rose wine (I suggest one made from Garnacha or Sangiovese)
o   1 cup Oak by Absolut
o   1 tbsp honey
o   1 Macintosh Apple, cored and then cubed
o   1 Bartlett Pear, cored and then cubed
o   1 orange, sliced, halved and cut into quarters

Instructions: Combine wine, Oak by Absolut and honey in a large pitcher, stir well.  Add the fruit, and serve over ice.  If a little fizz is appealing, top with seltzer water (local favorite Spindrift in the lemon flavor is perfect).

The Mighty Oak

The advent of the Fall season is always welcomed with warn sweaters, comfy boots and all things apple. A base of good apple cider, combined with the oak flavor of Oak by Absolut and the nuttiness of Amaretto makes this cocktail king of the fall.

o   1 cup good apple cider
o   1 shot Oak by Absolut
o   1 shot Amaretto

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake well, pour into glass, serve.

Flannel and Cords

While the fashion this time of year might be oh so "basic", this cocktail is anything but.  Nutrients burst out of this one to help ward off the common cold, and it pairs perfectly with your perfectly trimmed beard, and of course the standard flannel.

o   1 cup pure carrot juice
o   1 shot Oak by Absolut
o   1 tsp turmeric 
o   1 tsp cayenne pepper
o   2 tbsp pepperoncini juice
o   1 pepperoncini (for garnish)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients except for the garnish in a shaker over ice.  Shake well.  Serve over ice in a mason jar, garnish with the pepperoncini and a handlebar mustache.  Basic.

The Snow Shovel

It's coming...we all know it is.  Soon enough our days will be spent shoveling- sidewalks, parking spaces, driveways, outdoor bars...shoveling will be done.  It's a task that desperately needs a cocktail to fix that inevitable throbbing back.  Enter, The Snow Shovel.

o   1 cup Oak by Absolut
o   2 tsp good maple syrup
o   1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice.  Shake well.  Serve straight up.  Shake off the chill.

Comm Ave

Winter brings ice, snow, and the obligation to shop.  The obligation to shop with thousands of your favorite Bostonians, all jamming into stores and creating crazy traffic at every turn.  The Comm Ave is an ode to all those brake lights that line our favorite "mall" during the winter, and it's sure to calm your nerves from a stressful drive.

o   1 cup cranberry juice
o   1 shot Oak by Absolut
o   1 shot Cointreau 
o   Orange zest

Combine all liquids in a shaker over ice.  Shake well.  Strain into a martini glass, squeeze the zest of an orange peel into the glass and add as a floater.  Be glad your drinking and not driving.

Noche Nevada

Once the winter settles in, we're all looking for ways to escape the doldrums, and start cashing in those miles to get to the nearest tropical location.  For those of us whose points don't add up enough, fear not: Noche Nevada is your ticket to island time
    • 1 cup pure coconut milk
    • 1 tsp grated cinnamon
    • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
    • 1 tbsp good maple syrup (optional)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake very well.  Serve in a martini glass and picture the sand between your toes.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is There Bacon In My Wine?

Alright- so you’ve picked out some scents.  You sniffed the wine, you pushed past the “Wine” smell, and you recognized some fruits or flowers or savory scents in your glass.  The next thing to look at is are those smells fresh or manipulated?   How the scents present themselves will tell you if the wine is aging.  So let’s take a closer look. 

If you smelled lemon- is it a fresh lemon that you’d use to squeeze into your tea, or is it a lemon curd or jam?  Is it candied zest?  If you smelled apples- is it the smell of a fresh apple you just bit into as a healthy snack to keep that doctor away?  Or is it a baked apple or a bruised apple?  If you smelled flowers- are those flowers in a bouquet or dried? Are you getting baking spices?  Smoked wood?  Cedar box?  The more mature the scents are, the older the wine is getting.  

So earlier we talked about how when wines age we talked about how their colors change- the vibrant blues or the fresh greens fade and are replaced with ruby or straw yellow, as that is happening, at the very same time, their scents are also changing.  When wines are young, their scents are ripe and smell young.  You’ll get those awesome lemon or green apple- fresh fruits .  However as those wines start to develop in the bottle, and get a little older, those scents change too.  This is where you might start smelling things like candied lemon peel, or apple butter, bruised apple, peach jam, raisins, dried flowers, or even more savory scents like cedar box, or smoked meats.  

My general rule of thumb is if the fruits or flowers smell like they have been manipulated in some way (baked, candied, jammed) the aging process has begun.  The older the wine gets, the more those fruit scents will lessen and the more savory scents will appear.  Its a fascinating process to observe.    


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