For Love of the Grape
Cooking For Fun
Editor and writer: Mike Mazzarese
What is Wine?
No matter what kind of wine, whether it’s still (no bubbles), sparkling (with bubbles), fortified (brandy or spirits are added), or those with an aroma infused into it (German May Wine has woodruff added), all wine is simply fermented grape juice. What’s more, wine has been around for many years. Some archeologists say that grapes were cultivated as far back as 4000 B.C.
Wine can be red, white, or rosé (pink) and dry (not sweet), medium, or sweet in style. The alcohol content can be as low as 5.5 or as high as 14 percent naturally through the fermenting process. When brandy or spirits are added to fortify wine, it could go as high as 15-22 percent. You might also be wondering how the bubbles get into sparkling wines. Sparkling wine contains trapped carbon dioxide bubbles that are released on opening the bottle.
Wines vary in taste for many reasons. Here are a few:
Skin color and thickness give wine its color and many of is aromatic qualities, especially red and rosé wines.
Acid/Sugar ratio determines the wine’s alcohol level and sweetness.
Size: the smaller the grape the more concentrated the flavor [Yes, here’s one place where size does count! ;-) ]
OK, let’s not get too carried away with history. Just thought you might find the above information of interest as to why you may or not like some wines: too strong, too sweet, etc. Let’s talk a bit about some very popular grape varieties.
Along with soil conditions and the wine-maker’s skill, the grape variety determines the character of any wine. There are as many grape varieties as there are flowers. Thousands! The classic wines come from a species known as Vitis vinifera. One of the most popular of the Vitis vinifera is Chardonnay.
Unlike hard spirits, wine is meant to be drunk primarily with food. Many Americans only think of Chardonnay when they think of white wine. Chardonnay is the most popular grape variety, perhaps too popular. While there are many styles of Chardonnay, sticking only to this one white wine is like carrying a toolbox with only one type of tool! You limit your flavor possibilities.
The Chardonnay grape is what is used to make white burgundy and one of three types of grapes from which to make Champagne. Depending on how they are made, Chardonnay can be light and crisp (hints of apple, pineapple, even kiwi) or medium to full-bodied (buttery, butterscotch, apricot flavors). Some French Chardonnay (called CHABLIS) are even described as “steely” and go wonderfully with ice cold shell fish, clams, lobster, crab, etc. French Chablis is not at all like the American jug wine often called Chablis. Chardonnay is served cool… about 50F degrees. Do not put ice cubes in the wine. It will dilute it and the flavor will be changed. One of the best ways to chill a bottle of wine is to fill the sink with water, add a tray of ice cubes and put the bottle in the sink for about 15-20 minutes. Better than putting the bottle in the freezer and forgetting it’s there! ;-)
Chardonnay can be aged in steel drums and/or oak barrels. The wine-maker does this to impart flavor. You may have heard a wine described as having “wood” or “oaky”. California Chardonnays are noted for the oaky flavor. Wine-makers have to be careful not to let the oak overpower the taste of the fruit. You’ll have to judge for yourself. It’s fun to have a tasting and see what flavors come through in various brands.
Good wines do not have to be expensive. Sometimes the best tasting wines have no relationship to cost. Chardonnays from all over the world (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, etc.) can be had from as low as $7-8 to as high as $100+. There are many excellent Chardonnays in the $7-20 range.
In the next segment on Chardonnay, I’ll list a few Chardonnays in several price ranges along with their descriptions. Also, I’ll suggest a dish or two to go along with various Chardonnays. When it comes to pairing wine with food balance is the key word. Food and wine need to compliment one another. They should never overpower each other. That’s why you would not necessarily serve a hardy red wine with a soft, delicate fish dish. You wouldn’t taste anything but red wine. That being said, if that’s the taste you prefer, go for it! ;-)
1 bottle red or white wine
1 whole sliced orange
1 whole sliced lemon
3/4 cup sugar
6 oz. Soda water
3/4 oz brandy, Grand Marnier, or Cointreu
6 - 8 strawberries
6 - 8 Alberta peaches
Slice oranges and lemons thinly into a pitcher. Pour in wine, stir in sugar thoroughly, add liquor, and sprinkle on fruit. Place in refrigerator to cool. Just before serving add chilled soda water and ice cubes. And the peaches that have also been sliced and pit removed along with skin.
CFF Shared by Carole
Some links to other sites about wine.
Temecula Wine Country (California)
Niagara Wine Country (Ontario)
Wines on the Internet
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