Bring on the Bubbles!

champagne 3December has arrived, it is time to bring out the bubbles.  I’m talking about Sparkling Wine, Cava, Prosecco and yes, Champagne.  I’m a firm believer in drinking bubbles all year, but especially in December.  December is a month of celebration and festivities.  It is a time to gather with friends and family.  There is no better way to celebrate the special times than to open a bottle of bubbles.

Now, how to decide what to purchase, what to serve and how toprosecco jj buckley store the  bubbles.  First, you need to determine how much sweetness you wish to have in your glass.  There are four levels of sugar in sparkling wine; Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry and Demi Sec.

  • Extra Brut is the sparkling wine with absolutely no sugar.  This is the driest of wines.
  • Brut is the most popular.  Most Champagnes are in the Brut style.  There is a small amount of sugar, lending itself to a hint of sweetness.
  • Extra Dry is slightly sweeter than Brut.  Most Proseccos are in the extra dry style.
  • Demi Sec is a sweet sparkler.  Serve this with dessert, there is noticeable sugar in a demi sec.

cavaNow you need to decide if you want a fruity type of sparkling wine or one that is drier and less fruity.  The Italian method of production, the Charmat-Martinotti method, produces a sparkling wine that has a fruiter taste, the Champagne method will give you a drier wine.  The Champagne method (fermented first in the tank, then again in the bottle), takes longer and is more expensive to make.

Speaking of cost, you will need to figure out what your budget will allow.  How many bottles will you need?  If you’re serving more than 10 people, my opinion is to head for a prosecco or cava.  Prosecco and cava wines are generally of fair quality for a good price (around $15.00 or less).  These wines are usually brut or extra dry and will pair beautifully with a variety of foods; appetizers such as cheese, nuts, or fresh vegetables, and entrees of chicken, turkey, and seafood, and of course anything Italian oDomaine Ste. Micheller Spanish of origin.

For a smaller crowd, you could go with a sparkling wine or champagne.  One of my favorite sparkling wines is Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut from Columbia Valley, Washington.  This wine is made from primarily the chardonnay grape, with a little pinot noir and pinot gris, and has a lovely crisp flavor, with pear and apple notes to it.  The Domaine Ste. Michelle comes in a brut rosé, and an extra dry version, as well as the brut.  frank sinatraMy favorite is the brut because it is always a perfect pairing with fish, poultry, pork and of course dancing to Frank Sinatra.  It is generally easy to find a bottle of the Domaine Ste. Michelle on the shelf at your favorite wine shop, and the price should be around $17.00.

If you’re willing and able to get a bit more luxurious, and you want Champagne, then check out Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee.  The Piper-Heidsieck folks make a wonderful collection of wines; Cuvee Brut, Cuvee Sublime, and Rosé Sauvage are their three most popular wines.  Again, the Brut Cuvee is my pick, because this will work beautifully with most foods, and all festivities.  The Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee is crisp, with a taste of toast, herbs and a little apricot.  The price averages around $39.00 and you should be able to find this Champagne in most wine shops.  If you’re looking for somethinpiperg a little sweeter, check out the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage.  This is a spectacular rosé champagne, and will make a stunning appearance at your celebration.

The general rule for figuring how much wine you’ll need is four glasses per bottle.  The type and shape of glass you use is up to you.  There are no longer any hard and fast rules as to what glass you must use, it depends on your preference.  The narrower the glass, the longer the bubbles will stay in the glass (less surface for them to escape).  I personally prefer a white wine glass for any wine with bubbles.  It’s more comfortable to drink from and it’s still narrow enough to keep the bubbles in.

When serving a brut or extra dry wine, try adding one or two fresh champagne and raspberriesraspberries to the bottom of the glass before pouring the wine, it’s a very nice touch for a special occasion.  The raspberries will float to the top adding a bit of flavor and a beautiful spot of color.

Oh – and please be careful when opening a bottle of bubbles.  Always put a towel of some form over the top and hold the bottle away from you, away from any people, and away from all windows and glasses.  No swords or knives, just a dish towel or something to that effect.  I recommend opening the bottle outside in case open champagneit runs a bit over upon opening.  You don’t need an opener, just twist off the wire cage and gently pull up on the cork, and smile while you’re doing this, it helps.

If by chance you have a bottle of bubbles that has not been totally consumed, please use a wine vacuum to remove the oxygen from the bottle, and then store the bottle in the refrigerator.  Your sparkling wine should stay reasonably well for one or perhaps two days.  I do not recommend re-vacuuming the wine a second time, but it will work at least once.  If you have bottles that are not opened, please store them in a cool, dry place, away from light.  You can safely keep an unopened bottle of bubbles for a year in a cool, dark place.  If you want to keep your wine vacuumunopened bottle of bubbles longer than a year, you need to check with your wine shop about this.  The amount of time you can store an unopened bottle of bubbles depends on the vintage, type of wine, and location of storage.

What wine will you be serving at your next gathering?




It’s Summer Wine and the Living is Easy

strawberry belliniIt is here!  Summer Time!!  Oh, what a fine time it is.  Time for picnics, patio parties, barbeques, brunches, midnight sparklers and everything in between.  So…what to serve?  That depends on your setting, your guests and what is growing in your neighborhood.

Now is the time to mix up those Sangrias, Bellinis, Mimosas and wine cocktails.  Mixing your wine with fruit, fruit juice and other ingredients allows the wine to go farther, initially.  Unfortunately, a pitcher of Sangria or Bellinis can be so tasty your guests will end up drinking twice as much.  Be sure to stock up and be prepared to make several batches.

For a gathering that starts early in the day, such as a brunch or breakfast buffet, I recommend Bellinis or Mimosas.  These wine drinks are fruity, sweet and refreshing.  Perfect for any gathering that is before 2:00 pm.  If you want to serve these in a nonalcoholic fashion, substitute ginger ale for the wine.

Strawberry Bellini

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped, sliced or whole
  • 1 cup peach or strawberry nectar
  • 1 bottle Prosecco, Champagne or other sparkling white wine, preferably not too dry.

Puree the strawberries and nectar in a blender,  Fill a champagne glass about 1/3 full with the fruit, top with the sparkling wine, serve immediately.

You can have a do-it-yourself Bellini Bar with several different fruits,  Use fresh or frozen peaches, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries or blackberries.  Get creative, use kiwi, apricots or cherries!  Puree several cups of each fruit, washing the blender in between, with a 1/4 cup of simple syrup (see my recipe for simple syrup below).  Put the fruits into a bowl and refrigerate.  When you’re ready to serve the Bellinis, put the bowls of fruit out, put the bottle of Prosecco or other wine into an ice bucket and there you have it.  Your guests can choose their favorite fruit, putting 2 to 4 tablespoons of fruit into a glass and topping it off with the wine.

Pineapple Orange Mimosa

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons grenadine
  • 1 bottle Champagne (or sparkling wine in a pinch)Mimosa

A Mimosa is basically orange juice with sparkling wine (usually Champagne).  This recipe is a bit different with the addition of the pineapple juice and grenadine.  Mix the juices and grenadine together.  Put equal parts of the juices and Champagne in a Champagne flute.  Serve immediately.

Bellinis and Mimosas are beautiful, colorful drinks.  They are on the sweet side of cocktails and pair well with all savory breakfast foods such as quiche, frittatas, omelets, basically all egg recipes.  I would hesitate to pair these with the sugary side of breakfast such as anything served with syrup because of the sweetness in the drink.

PeachSangria4For those afternoon patio parties, garden parties, picnics, beach parties;  my favorite beverage is  White Peach Sangria.  Unfortunately for me, it is difficult to find fresh peaches in my area.  I get around this by using frozen peaches.  I use the frozen peaches without added sugar.  If you are lucky and live in an area with access to fresh peaches, by all means use them.  Here is my recipe:

White Peach Sangria

  • 2 large peaches sliced (should equal about a pound)
  • 3/4 cup of peach schnapps (or other peach liqueur)
  • 1 bottle Pinot Grigio, on the dry side
  • 1/2 liter ginger ale (more or less to your own taste).

If you’re using frozen peaches, keep them frozen until preparing the Sangria, this will keep it colder longer.  Put your peaches in the bottom of a pitcher, pour in the wine and peach liqueur and stir.  Add the ginger ale just before serving,   The ginger ale will add bubbles to the Sangria and give it some sparkle.  If you want this Sangria sweeter, make a simple syrup and pour that over the peaches before adding the other liquids.  Simple Syrup is 2 parts sugar to one part water.  Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar.  Stir to dissolve and once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat.  Do not boil for too long or the syrup will be too thick.  You can store what you do not use in your refrigerator.

This is a lovely crisp Sangria that works well with luncheons and picnics.  Chicken, fish, pasta, anything with a lightly seasoned touch will pair beautifully with this.Highway_12_2011_Red_Wine_Blend_1024x1024

Barbeques, cocktail parties and dinners are when I would bring out the red Sangrias and wine cocktails.  A fun red wine cocktail is the Red Blend Fizz.

Red Blend Fizz

  • 8 wine blend (Red wine blend can be a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot or any red wine)
  • 2 oz. raspberry schnapps
  • 2 ounce lime juice
  • ginger ale

Shake all ingredients except ginger ale . Strain into a Collins glass over ice. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge and raspberry.

redwine cocktailThis cocktail may cause a comment or two from your old-school Cabernet Sauvignon or Barolo drinkers but it is a fun red wine cocktail to serve.

Red Wine Sangria

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups spiced rum – chilled
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine – chilled
  • 1 cup orange juice

Several hours ahead of the time of your gathering – or the night before, dissolve the sugar in the red sangriarum. Slice the lemon, lime and orange into thin rounds and place in the rum to soak. After the fruit has been soaking in the rum for at least two hours, put into a large glass pitcher with the wine and orange juice. Chill in the refrigerator for several more hours. You can also put the orange juice into ice trays, freeze and add those to your Sangria at the time of serving.

When ready to serve, muddle or crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir. Adjust sweetness to taste.  If you want to cut down on the alcohol content in this recipe you can use less rum and/or add ginger ale to the mix.  If you’re adding ginger ale, do so at the last minute to keep the bubbles lively.

You can add other fruits of your choosing such as apples, pears, strawberries, nectarines, pineapple, cherries, berries – it’s your choice.   No need to use expensive red wine for this recipe, now is the time to try out that box wine that has been calling to you.

Your red wine sangrias and red wine cocktails will work well with your spicy barbeque meats, grilled veggies and all of your beef dishes.

wine partySangrias, Bellinis, Mimoas, Wine Cocktails; all of these are a fun way to add color and celebration to any summer time gathering.

I can’t wait to serve a icy cold White Peach Sangria to my guests.  What will you be serving?