Wine

Everything old is new again, especially in Limoux

Everything old is new again, especially in Limoux

The Benedictine monks at the St. Hilaire abbey in Languedoc definitely stole a march on Champagne. In 1531, an abbey scribe wrote about inducing a secondary fermentation in wine flasks stoppered with cork from forests in nearby Catalunya. That was more than a century before Dom Perignon went to work in the cellars of Champagne. Languedoc growers have been making sparkling wine for almost 500 years now. In accordance with the French regulations introduced in 1990, it's called Crémant de Limoux. And it's a bargain. Selling at $17–$20, the Crémant de Limoux Rosé Brut St. Hilaire from Côté Mas is great for simple sipping and even better paired with food. Winemaker Paul Mas pushes the limits of allowed grapes for the AOC. The wine contains...Read More
Cava continues the sparkling saga

Cava continues the sparkling saga

We've been buried in updating Frommer's Spain, which explains our online absence since the New Year. So in the continuing series on sparkling wines, most of which are not named Champagne, it seems only appropriate to write a bit about the truly excellent Lady of Spain Brut from the Paul Cheneau line. The parent company is Giró Ribot, one of the preeminent old families in the Penedès region, a largely white wine region between Barcelona and Tarragona. It's bounded on the north by the jagged massif of Montserrat, on the south by the coastal hills of the Mediterranean. Giró Ribot is located in Sant Fe del Penedès. It's an agricultural village about five miles southwest of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, the center of Penedès sparkling wine....Read More
Prosecco loves Parmigiano, prosciutto, and potato chips

Prosecco loves Parmigiano, prosciutto, and potato chips

Nothing quite catches the magic of candlelight like a glass of sparkling wine. Now that we're approaching the longest nights of the year, we're turning to a variety of sparkling wines after sundown. Of course, the fact that fizzy sips are associated with the holidays doesn't hurt—though we're not sure why anyone needs an excuse to drink sparklers. Prosecco is a natural for snack time. Made with Glera grapes in the Veneto near Treviso, it's probably the most accessible and affordable sparkling wine out there. The brut level of dryness happens to be perfect with some other northern Italian standbys—chunks of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and rolls of thinly sliced prosciutto. Inspired by the caffès onVenice's Piazza San Marco, we've added some plain salted potato chips...Read More
Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

Christmas lasagna with Brolio Chianti Classico

As readers of our last post know, we've been exploring Chianti with dishes for the Christmas season. Our last post highlighted a Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva with roast pork. But we're also fond of Brolio's basic Chianti Classico, which sells for about two-thirds the price of the riserva. The wine is intensely ruby red, with a more open nose than the riserva. Floral notes of iris and violet mix with red fruits and woodsy aromas. With less barrel aging, the wine is more loosely structured and the tannins are very soft. Typical of Brolio wines, though, it shows a slightly flinty minerality that we quite enjoy. With apologies to Italy, we decided that this wine would drink well with a French-influenced version of lasagna. Our...Read More
Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Chianti Classico for Christmas: Brolio 2015 Riserva

Long ago, we used to buy a well-made Chianti Classico from an anonymous cooperative for a price low enough to make Charles Shaw blush. When we wanted to treat ourselves to a better wine, we would step up to a Brolio Chianti. We didn't have a lot of money and we never went wrong trusting the Ricasoli family to make an excellent Chianti at a fair price. Chianti has come a long way since Baron Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original formulation in 1872. That recipe called for a minimum of 70 percent Sangiovese and allowed a couple of white grapes in the blend. The rules have been rewritten extensively and now even allow 100 percent Sangiovese as well as blends with Bordeaux grape...Read More
Planeta champions Nero d’Avola wines

Planeta champions Nero d’Avola wines

“Nero d'Avola is the most important grape in Sicilian wine-making,” announced Alessio Planeta at the outset of a two-hour seminar on the subject. Planeta has all the bona fides to make that claim. He's the nephew of Diego Planeta, who pioneered quality winemaking with the Settesoli cooperative in Menfi and co-founded Planeta winery (planeta.it/en/) in Sambuca. Alessio and his cousin Francesca now run Planeta, one of the biggest exporters of Sicilian table wine to the U.S. Nero d'Avola is the noblest of the many native Sicilian red grapes. With abundant warmth, sunlight, and dry conditions at harvest, it reaches peak ripeness in Sicily with rounded phenols and a sugar of about 22 brix. (It ferments dry to 13.5% alcohol.) Historically, Sicilian red wines were known...Read More
Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

We've been drinking Gruet wines for about 25 years now, and we hope to keep drinking them another 25. That would be something to celebrate—which is appropriate for an American winery that produces sparkling wines that rival good Champagne. Quality can always be had at a premium price, but entry-level Gruet Brut starts at $15. That's hard to beat, even if you step down to bulk-process California sparklers. The top of the line—a grand rosé that sits three years on the lees—is only $39. (Those are winery prices.) When we're in Gruet country, we always try to stop at the Albuquerque tasting room (8400 Pan American Freeway NE, Albuquerque; (505) 821-0055, gruetwinery.com). For one thing, this space has the full line of Gruet wines, including...Read More
Reviving white wine sangría for summer dog days

Reviving white wine sangría for summer dog days

We're in the hottest, sweatiest part of summer in the northern hemisphere. These are the dog days—and not because we want to loll around in the shade with our tongues hanging out like a couple of bluetick hounds. Apparently the period is so named because Sirius, the dog star, rises and sets with the sun. That's about as much scholarship as we care to indulge when it's this hot. But the temperatures give us a great excuse to revive a drink we have been making since Hector was a pup. Or at least since we cribbed it from a 1970s Bon Appétit! magazine. It's an extremely refreshing white wine sangría with the added punch of Orange Curaçao. For several years we endured an aesthetic crisis...Read More
Getting a handle on premium Chilean wines

Getting a handle on premium Chilean wines

My understanding of Chilean wine has been minimal. Exposed largely to inexpensive Cabernets and Sauvignon Blanc, I've long associated Chile with good bargains. Oh, the occasional eye-opening bottle of Carignan found its way to our table—and we rejoiced when one did and marveled at both the price—roughly six times the cost of a bargain Chilean red—and the great quality even at that price. If the Wines of Chile marketing consortium has its way, we'll all be having more of those aha! moments over glasses of Chilean wine. The group just barnstormed through Boston, Chicago, and D.C. with 15 wineries in tow for trade tastings of what they call “site specific artisan wines.” More important, they brought along one of the most genial and knowledgeable interpreters...Read More
Luce wines turn toward the future

Luce wines turn toward the future

As one of the first super Tuscan wines, Luce was the joint vision of the Marchesi de' Frescobaldi and the late Robert Mondavi. Blending the Montalcino clone of Sangiovese with Merlot, they created a red with supple vigor and friendly tannins that was immediately met with popular and critical success. More than two decades have passed, and Luce remains a powerful alternative to the best Brunello di Montalcino. In recent years, however, the Tenuta Luce delle Vite estate has branched out with a more approachable and affordable second level wine called Lucente. They are also changing the way they age their Brunello. When Luce's technical director, Stefano Ruini, passed through Boston recently, we sat down to taste the latest releases and discuss changes at the...Read More