Sugar Levels in Champagne & Other Sparkling Wines

Given that that New Year’s is fast approaching it seems like a good time to talk about sparkling wines; in particular the amount of sweetness in these wines.  Sweetness levels range from super dry to very sweet. Because of this extreme variation, the experts have developed a standardized sweetness scale that has been divided into seven levels.

Photo credit: ScientificAmerican.com

The sweetness level varies due to a step in the wine making process referred to as “liqueur d’expedition” where producers add a small amount of grape must (sugar) before corking the bottle. Since sparkling wine is so acidic, the sweetness is added in order to reduce sour flavours in the final product.

The sweetness scale for sparkling wines consists of the following levels:

Brut Nature (Brut Zero)

  • 0-3 grams (g) of natural residual sugar (RS) / litre (L)
  • 0-2 calories and up to 0.15 carbs for a total of 91–93 calories per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Extra Brut

  • 0-6 g/L RS
  • 0-6 calories and up to 0.9 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Brut

  • 0-12 g/L RS
  • 0-7 calories and up to 1.8 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Extra Dry

  • 12-17 g/L RS
  • 7-10 calories and 1.8–2.6 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Dry (Secco)

  • 17-32 g/L RS
  • 10-19 calories and 2.6–4.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Demi-Sec

  • 32-50 g/L RS
  • 19-30 calories and 4.8–7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Doux

  • 50+ g/L RS
  • 30+ calories and more than 7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of more than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Brut has a fair amount of variation in sweetness, whereas Extra Brut and Brut Nature have focused sugar content. Therefore, if a dryer wine is your preference it is best to select either an Extra Brut or Brut Nature wine.

Something to keep in mind when considering the sweetness of sparkling wine is how little sugar is required to make it taste sweet.  The amount of sugar in these wines is comparatively low to other beverages.

Drink Comparison (sugar levels in grams)

  • 0 g in Vodka Soda
  • 0.5 g in Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
  • 2 g in Brut Sparkling Wine
  • 8 g in Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
  • 14 g in Gin & Tonic
  • 16 g in Honest Tea Green Tea
  • 17 g in Starbucks 2% Milk Grande Latte
  • 20 g  in Margarita on the rocks (made w/ simple syrup)
  • 33 g in Rye & Coke

Happy Holidays!

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Ripasso Style Wines

Ripasso is an ancient wine making technique used for centuries in Italy’s Valpolicella wineries. Ripasso, also known as double fermentation, is a method used to give more structure, body and flavours to the basic Valpolicella wine.  Ripasso is an Italian word meaning “review“, “re-pass” or “go over again“.

Photo credit: VinePair.com

Once harvested in autumn, selected grapes to be used in both Amarone and Recioto wines remain in lofts above wineries to dry for about four months. All the rest of the harvested grapes are squeezed and fermented to make the basic Valpolicella Classico wine.

At the end of January or beginning of February the semi-dried grapes for Amarone and Recioto are squeezed and fermented together with grape skins. Once the fermentation is complete the grape skins are removed and wine is then stored for ageing.

The Valpolicella wine that was fermented back in the fall is then put over these Recioto and Amarone skins which, being still full of un-fermented sugars, starts a second fermentation. These skins still contain aromatic compounds and tannins that are transferred to the Valpolicella wine.

Valpolicella Ripasso shares the freshness and lightness of basic Valpolicella wine but has more of the structures and flavours of the more expensive Amarone.  This is kind of a happy medium between the other two. There is cherry fruitiness of a classic Valpolicella but it will have more tannins and flavours from the dried grape skins; providing flavour of darker fruits, spice and leather and will have a longer finish.

Valpolicella Ripasso wine will be identified in one of several ways.  On the label beside the words ‘Valpolicella Classico DOC’, will appear an additional description such as Ripasso, Double Fermentation or Second Fermentation.

You can count on the wine being a medium bodied wine, fruity and having tertiary flavours and aromas.  Some will have flavours similar to a basic Valpolicella wine, while others will be closer to an Amarone wine.  Each vintner has their own style of making it as they use varying percentages of fresh to dried grapes.  It is worth while trying several different ones to find your own preference.

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Does Price Influence Taste?

Studies have shown that there is a common perception that the higher the price of a bottle of wine, the better the taste and the more enjoyable it is.

Image credit: Fix.com

During one of these studies the participants were provided with incorrect information regarding the price of the various wines tasted.  It was discovered that the participants found that an inexpensive wine was far more enjoyable when it was believed to have a higher price.

The study took place at Switzerland’s University of Basel where 140 participants were provided with six different wine samples which they had to rate for pleasantness and intensity.  Three of the samples provided no price information while the others displayed a price; a low, a medium and a high price.

The three wines indicating price had none, one or two of the wines incorrectly priced.  The mislabeled wines were either four times higher or four times lower than the actual price.

When the price of the wine was not displayed the study showed no difference in the pleasantness rating, irrelevant of the actual price.  However, the mislabelled wines showed that the level of enjoyment was directly related to the indicated price.  Low-cost wines displaying an erroneous high price were found to be more enjoyable than the true higher priced wines.

In another study researchers used MRIs to scan participants’ reactions while tasting deceptively labeled wines.  The research indicated that as the label price increased so did the enjoyment of the wine.  During a subsequent study the same results were achieved.

The studies also showed that decreasing the displayed price of an expensive wine did not affect the overall rating for its pleasantness.  However, when the price was deceptively increased most participants preferred the wine more.

Even when one wine has a legitimate higher price it should be kept in mind that the higher price can often be attributed to being produced by a prestigious winery or vintner, being a rare vintage, being produced from exceptionally old or historic vines or wines consisting of varietals that are not in abundant supply.  None of these reasons necessarily noticeably impact the flavour or quality of the wine; food for thought when perusing the aisles of your local wine merchant.

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Ontario’s Movers and Shakers for 2021

With COVID-19 finally starting to loosen its grip over the country and the hopes that people will be able to begin moving more freely again, I have put together my 2021 list of wines to watch for.  Not all of these wines will be available at your local wine store; some can only be purchased online or directly from the winery. 

One significant indicator of which wineries are making an impact is usually the Ontario Wine Awards.  However, COVID-19 caused the 2021 awards to be cancelled.  The 2020 awards were conducted virtually but the organizers decided to forego the 2021 awards with the exception of the ‘Winemaker of the Year Award, which will be announced sometime during the summer.  A second indicator is the National Wine Awards, which for 2021 has been deferred from June to October.

Selecting a list of top wineries is very subjective.  Depending on the reviewer, ratings may be based on any or all of:

  • Customer visit experience at the winery
  • Overall service of the winery
  • The winery facility and amenities
  • The variety of wines offered for sale
  • Price point
  • The quality of the wine

For the purposes of this review I have based my opinions on my interpretation of recent trends, the wineries successes, and the quality of their wine, their wine-making practices and what makes them stand out above their competitors at the present time.  My list is presented in no particular order.

Rosehall Run Vineyard, Prince Edward County

Having won the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards “Red Wine of the Year” for its 2018 ‘JCR Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard’ I am looking forward to seeing what Rosehall Run will do this year.  I was fortunate enough to visit The County last fall and taste this prize winner, as well as bring a few bottles home.  Based on last year’s performance, I would think that this year’s Pinot Noir release will be worth getting a hold of.

2020 was not the first time Rosehall Run has received an award.  Their recognized achievements go back to 2006 and they have even had their wine included on the menu for a Royal visit.

Angels Gate Winery, Niagara

Winemaker Philip Dowell was named 2020’s ‘Winemaker of the Year’ at the Ontario Wine Awards. Dowell has a simple philosophy on winemaking; it’s all about balance both in the vineyard and in the actual wine. It’s about bringing together the ‘terroir’, ‘elevage’ and ‘typicity’ of wine. The ‘terroir” is the character of the grape from a specific vineyard site; ‘elevage’ is the progress the wine takes through the cellar during its maturation; and ‘typicity’ is the distinctive vinous character each wine has.

Angels Gate Winery produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Shiraz.

Karlo Estates Winery, Prince Edward County

Karlo has rebounded after some struggles following the 2014 death of its founder and winemaker, Richard Karlo.  Karlo has redeveloped its vision, which is to promote sustainability and show that it is possible to be respectful of the planet while producing award-winning wines. Karlo was the first certified vegan wine in the world. Not only is the wine in the bottles certified vegan but all the vineyard practices are vegan as well.

Personally, I am a big fan of both the Van Alstine white and red Port, as well as their Quintus which is made using Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The Picone Vineyard, Niagara

The Picone Vineyard was a complete mystery to me prior to their winning the White Wine of the Year award at the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards for their 2017 ‘Charles Baker Riesling’.  The vineyard is small, only 10 acres.

In addition to the Riesling, they produce Fogolar Cabernet Franc, which is made from a one-acre block with prized vines that are 30+ years old.

Being committed to enhancing the environment by using sustainable practices in their winery and vineyard, the Wine Council of Ontario has certified Picone for sustainability management of their vineyard.

Interestingly, the owner, Mark Picone, is an internationally trained chef.  As well as owning the winery, Mark is a Chef Professor at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute.  What better way to showcase his wine than by pairing them with his own food creations.

Picone Vineyard may be small but it seems to have great future potential to become mighty.

Final Thoughts

Obviously these are not all the good wineries in Ontario, in fact far from it. However, these are the ones that caught my attention this past year.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will find any of their offerings in your local wine or liquor store.  However, if you find yourself in either the Niagara region or The County, visiting these wineries could be a fruitful (no pun intended) experience. Most of the wineries offer online ordering as well.

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Red Varietals Grown in Canada

Photo credit: WinesInNiagara.com

This week I conclude my review of the grape varietals grown in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.  The focus is on red wine grapes grown in these 3 provinces.

Baco Noir

Baco Noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety created by Francois Baco.  In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of North America, such as British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in all 3 Canadian provinces and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in these regions.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon making a bright, pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France and Spain, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, British Columbia and Ontario.

The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be a full-bodied wine with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates like Canada, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can be accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages.   In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olive notes while in very hot climates the currant flavours can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side.

Castel

The grape was created in 1953 by Ollie A. Bradt, at what is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Ontario. The grape is hardy, early-ripening and disease resistant.

De Chaunac

De Chaunac is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety used to make red wines. The grape was named after Adhemar de Chaunac, a pioneer in the Ontario wine industry.

De Chaunac is known to have a very vigorous growth habit and good resistance to mildew. It is grown in varying amounts for wine production across northeastern North America, especially in the winegrowing regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.

Gamay

Gamay is a purple-coloured grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley of France.  It has often been cultivated because it makes for abundant production.  It is grown in all 3 of the Canadian wine provinces.

Leon Millot

Léon Millot is a red variety of hybrid grape used for wine. The variety was named after the winemaker and tree nursery owner Léon Millot.  The grapes are grown in Nova Scotia.

Lucie Kuhlmann

This is a Kuhlmann hybrid variety, with growing and ripening characteristics similar to Leon Millot and Marechal Foch, though less widely grown. The wine, like Leon Millot, is capable of deep colour with a pronounced berry-like fruitiness. Wines made from Lucie Kuhlmann tend to have a slightly firmer tannic structure compared to Leon Millot.  These grapes are grown in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Malbec

Malbec is a purple grape variety that creates a dark red intense wine with robust tannins.  In addition to being bottled on its own it is also commonly blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux blend or is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.

In addition to France, Malbec has become an Argentine varietal but is also becoming popular in British Columbia and Ontario.

Marechal Foch

Marechal Foch is a hybrid French red wine grape variety. It was originally known as Kuhlmann 188-2.  The vines were imported to North America in the mid 1940s, where it was subsequently renamed Marechal Foch in honour of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War.

Marechal Foch ripens early and it is cold-hardy and resistant to fungal diseases. The quality of wine produced is dependent on the age of the vines, and the flavour profile associated with many new-world hybrid varietals is much reduced in comparison to wine made from older vines.

Today Marechal Foch is grown in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Marquette

Marquette is a blue/black-berried variety introduced in 2006 by the University of Minnesota in the United States. Marquette is the cousin of Frontenac, a well-known French-American hybrid.

Marquette is promising for cold-climate producers in North America, and a number of plantings have been established in Minnesota, Vermont, New York and Nova Scotia.

The grape has high sugar levels and moderate acidity. Marquette wines are typically medium bodied, with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries. In some cases more complex aromas such as tobacco and leather may also be exhibited, with spicy pepper notes on the finish.

Merlot

Merlot is a dark blue wine grape variety that is used by itself, as well as a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes it a popular grape for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals.

While Merlot is made around the world, there tends to be two main styles.  There is the International style that produces inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit.  The second style is the Bordeaux style where the harvesting of the grapes takes place earlier to maintain acidity. This style produces more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries.

In Canada Merlot is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Mischurnitz

This vine is from Eastern Europe but is now being grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. In 1983 a wine from Nova Scotia was voted the ‘best wine of Canada’ in a blind competition to supply the Canadian Embassies around the world. More recently two other Nova Scotia wineries, Jost Vineyards and Sainte Famille, are making notable wines with Michurinetz.

This extremely cold-hardy and vigorous vine typically produces red wines with tannic strength. The grapes also typically have extremely high natural acidity, and low sugar levels.

Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape that is mainly used in classic Bordeaux blends. It adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend. Petit Verdot has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into a single varietal wine. It is also useful in ‘stiffening’ the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.  It is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape that is grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates.  It is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot noir is now used to make red wines around the world. Regions that have gained a reputation for red Pinot Noir wines include Oregon, California, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the wine regions of Canada.

When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, there is the potential to develop more vegetal and barnyard aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.

Syrah

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.

The style and flavour profile of Syrah wines are influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown.  Moderate climates tend to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint and black pepper. In hot climates, Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of licorice and earthy leather.

Syrah is used as a single varietal, as well as in blends. It can be found all over the world from France to Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California, Washington, British Columbia and Ontario.

Zweigelt

Widely planted in Austria, Zweigelt vines have made inroads in Washington and the Canadian wine regions of Ontario and British Columbia.  There are some plantings in Hungary. In the Czech Republic it is known as Zweigeltrebe and is the third-most widely planted red-grape variety, comprising approximately 4.7% of total vineyards. It grows in most of the wine regions in Slovakia and now in Belgian and Polish vineyards.

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Wine and Cheese to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

A study has been completed suggesting that the foods you eat can have an impact on your cognitive ability in the future.  It suggests that eating cheese and drinking red wine may actually improve your brain’s cognitive abilities  Diet has long been considered a marker for our health later in life and studies have shown a link between diet, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Photo credit: gourmetcheesedetective.com

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, analyzed data over a 10-year period from 1,787 people between the ages of 46 and 77 in the United Kingdom. The researchers specifically looked at participants’ ability to think quickly, as well as their diet and alcohol consumption over time.

Researchers found that certain foods and drinks, including red wine and cheese, seemed to have protective effects against cognitive decline. Moderate consumption of red wine and cheese was found to have the best correlation for participants who had no genetic risk of developing cognitive diseases.  However, the experts caution against going overboard. The researchers were able to explain up to 15.6 percent of the variation in cognition over time.  They did go on to say that they were only able to see what the participants were eating and drinking during the 10-year study.

Though the findings are encouraging from a wine lover’s perspective, the researchers did say you shouldn’t load up on wine and cheese just yet as more research is needed.  They warn that the correlation does not equal cause. We shouldn’t leap to the assumption that drinking wine and eating cheese lowers our risk of cognitive decline over time as the study did not examine which components in cheese and wine were beneficial. Further clinical trials would be needed to determine if explicitly changing diet could impact brain health.

Diet and exercise remain as the two most important things that a person should manage for body health and brain health.  Doctors say that active people with good body weights are far more likely to retain good brain function, regardless of genetics.

Regarding the link with alcohol in this particular study, doctors warn against being too zealous. All things should be consumed in moderation.  While it’s nice to think that modest red wine consumption could have benefits, it’s also important to remember the harm that can result from over-indulgence.  However, it is good to know that eating cheese and drinking wine in moderation has potential benefits beyond just helping us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Summertime Wine Drinks

Photo Credit: WeSpeakWine.com

Wine cocktails make a light and refreshing summertime drink.  Whether you have a bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine on hand, you can use it to mix up some great wine cocktails. From fruity sangrias to imaginative cocktails, these drink recipes are cool and refreshing for summer.

Simple Syrup

Several of these recipes contain simple syrup.  Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts of sugar and water, which is stirred over low heat (or microwave) until the sugar is dissolved.  It is then cooled to room temperature before using.

Fragole on Ice

Ingredients

  • 1 strawberry
  • 1½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz. basil simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Rosé
  • Fresh strawberry slice.

Steps to Make It

  • Muddle a strawberry in a shaker
  • Combine vodka, fresh lemon juice, basil simple syrup and ice in a shaker
  • Shake well
  • Pour into a cocktail glass with ice
  • Top with chilled Rosé
  • Garnish with a fresh strawberry slice

Grapefruit Spritz

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  oz. grapefruit juice
  • ½ oz. sweet vermouth
  • ½ tbsp. simple syrup
  • 4 to 5 oz. Prosecco

Steps to Make It

  • Add grapefruit juice, sweet vermouth and simple syrup to cocktail shaker
  • Fill cocktail shaker with ice
  • Shake until chilled
  • Strain the liquid into an iced glass
  • Top with Prosecco
  • Garnish with a slice of grapefruit

Ice-y Martini

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Cabernet Franc ice wine
  • 2 oz. vodka

Steps to Make It

  • Combine ingredients in a glass and stir

Pinot Noir-tini

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  oz. Pinot Noir
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Ice
  • Amarena cherries

Steps to Make It

  • Pour Pinot Noir, vodka and dry vermouth in a mixing glass
  • Add ice
  • Stir until the glass is chilled
  • Strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish with a couple of Amerena cherries

Sangria

Peach Sangria

What is different about this one is that it uses fruit liqueurs instead of fresh fruit so there’s no need to make it the day before. The recipe yields about 8 1/2 cups or about 16 four-ounce servings. Since the liquors and juices are all poured equally, it’s easy to increase or decrease as needed.

Ingredients

  • 1 (750 mL) bottle dry white wine (Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 1/4 cups mango rum
  • 1 1/4 cups peach schnapps
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 1/2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • Fresh peach slices
  • Fresh mango slices

Steps to Make It

  • In a punch bowl or large pitcher, pour the wine, mango rum, peach schnapps, citrus juices, and lemon-lime soda. Stir well
  • Fill with large pieces of ice
  • Serve in glasses
  • Garnish with peach and mango slices

Pineapple Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 750 ml bottle of Moscato
  • 1 cup coconut rum
  • ¼ cup Triple Sec
  • Splash pineapple juice
  • Splash orange juice
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Sliced orange
  • Sliced lemon

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the bottle of Moscato, coconut rum and triple sec together
  • Add pineapple juice and orange juice
  • Stir in strawberries
  • Garnish with  orange and lemon slices

Raspberry Lemonade Moscato Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle white wine
  • 12 ounces/1 1/2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • 12 ounces lemonade
  • 2 lemons (sliced)
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (frozen can be used)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the wine, berries, lemons, lemonade and sugar in a pitcher
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight
  • Add the lemon-lime soda just prior to serving
  • Add ice in either the pitcher or individual glasses
  • Garnish with lemon slices

Sauvignon Blanc Summer Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 750 ml bottle of Sauvignon Blanc
  • ¾ cup of vodka
  • ½ cup tropical fruit juice
  • 6 tbs. thawed frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 package fresh raspberries
  • 1 package fresh blueberries
  • 2 cups club soda

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the Sauvignon Blanc, vodka, tropical fruit juice, lemonade concentrate, sugar, raspberries, blueberries and club sod

Spicy Summer

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. tequila
  • 1 ½ oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 1-inch cubes of watermelon
  • 1 slice of jalapeño pepper
  • Sparkling Rosé wine

Steps to Make It

  • Combine tequila, lime juice and simple syrup in a shaker
  • Add cubes of watermelon and circular slices of jalapeño pepper to the shaker
  • If you want it less spicy, omit the pepper seeds
  • Muddle until thoroughly blended
  • Add ice and shake for at least 30 seconds
  • Double strain into a wine glass over a large ice cube
  • Fill a glass to the top with Sparkling Rosé
  • Garnish with mint, rose, and jalapeño

Strawberry Rhubarb Sangria

Ingredients

Rhubarb Syrup:

  • 2 cups rhubarb (diced or roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Sangria:

  • 1 bottle Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup St. Germaine Liquor
  • 1 cup strawberries (sliced)
  • 1 lime (sliced)

Steps to Make It

  • Begin by preparing the rhubarb syrup. Heat the water, sugar, and rhubarb in a small saucepan  Cook for about 5 minutes on medium low heat, until the mixture has thickened and turned a light pink
  • Strain the rhubarb out of the liquid.; place the strained liquid in the refrigerator to cool
  • Combine the bottle of wine, vodka, St. Germaine liquor, strawberries and limes in a large pitcher. Once the rhubarb syrup has cooled, add it to the wine mixture. Let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. 
  • Garnish with sliced strawberries and limes

Tequila Sangria

Ingredients

Hibiscus Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (white granulated)
  • 1 tea bag hibiscus tea

Sangria:

  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 3/4 cup hibiscus syrup
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 1/2 liter club soda

Steps to Make It

Make the Hibiscus Syrup

  • In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until it’s completely dissolved
  • Remove from the heat, add the tea bag, and steep for 10 minutes
  • Discard the tea bag and let the syrup continue to cool. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Make the Tequila Sangria

  • In a pitcher or punchbowl, combine the tequila, wine, hibiscus syrup, and orange and cranberry juices
  • Stir well
  • Add ice and fill with club soda
  • Garnish with orange, lemon and lime slices

Source the Raleigh

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. watermelon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • Soda water

Steps to Make It

  • Fill cocktail shaker with ice
  • Add Sauvignon Blanc, vodka, watermelon juice, simple syrup, and lemon juice to the shaker
  • Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Top with soda water

Strawberry and Rosemary Rosé Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Brut Rosé Champagne or Sparkling Wine
  • 1 cup strawberry-flavored vodka
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • Strawberries for garnish
  • Rosemary for garnish

Steps to Make It

  • Pour Brut Rosé Champagne or dry Rosé Sparkling Wine over ice
  •  Add strawberry-flavored vodka and lemon-lime soda
  • Garnish with strawberries and rosemary

Tropical Twist

Ingredients

  • ½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz. honey syrup
  • ½ oz. rum
  • 2 oz. Prosecco

Steps to Make It

  • Combine lime juice, honey syrup and rum in a cocktail shaker
  • Add ice and shake
  • Add Prosecco
  • Strain into Champagne flute
  • Garnish with lime peel

Watermelon Wine Cooler

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. watermelon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon
  • 1½ oz. soda water

Steps to Make It

  • Combine ingredients except soda water in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Top with soda water

White Wine Spritzer

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces chilled white wine (Riesling, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc are used most often)
  • 1​ ounce ​cold club soda (or mineral water)

Steps to Make It

  • Fill a white wine glass or highball glass with ice
  • Pour in the wine
  • Top with club soda or mineral water
  • Garnish with lime wedge or orange peel

Enjoy your summer while sipping one of these cool refreshing wine beverages!

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Good Inexpensive Wine

What is considered cheap or inexpensive depends on who the consumer is. It is a very relative term.  For example, to some people an inexpensive wine is one with a price point under $50, for others it may be one under $10.  The definition of inexpensive or cheap is as individual as the person making the purchase.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am considering a value of under $20 as an inexpensive bottle of wine. 

If a wine is too cheap there are those who believe that profit is being achieved mainly by producing large volumes sacrificing quality.  Producers operating in this manner have minimal control over the quality of the grapes or the manner in which they are produced.     Under these circumstances vintners purchase grapes from a number of different growers whom they have limited or no influence over how the grapes are produced.   However, each producer should be judged on their own merits.

I love the challenge of scoping out good inexpensive wines, especially those that need to mature for a few years before enjoying.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough

There is certainly some luck involved in finding great inexpensive wines but there are ways of putting the odds in your favour.  The clues are often right under your nose starting with the label on the bottle.  Don’t forget to check out the label on the back of the bottle as well.  The label will provide the name of the vintner and often identify the varietal(s).  Selecting a varietal you enjoy will increase the odds of you selecting a wine to your taste.

It will also identify any quality designation that the wine has been provided by the nation where the wine was produced.

The country of origin will also provide clues as to the wine’s flavour and intensity.  Generally speaking, wines produced in hotter climates have more intense flavour.

The label will also display any sustainability or organic qualifications that the wine has.

Information regarding the wines offered for sale will often be provided by the seller.  Look for information in brochures, catalogues, or stock cards that may be available in the store or on the merchant’s web site. 

Many wineries have their own web site which may provide detailed information pertaining to the various wines they produce, including such information as the varietal(s) contained, how the wine was aged, tannin content, acid levels, etc., all of which impact the flavour and help determine if the wine may be a good fit for you.

However, when all else fails or you like to select wines solely on how the label inspires you, simply standing and gazing at the wines on the shelf may be the only information you need.  This is how my wife does it and though I am aghast at this process I cannot argue with her success rate.  Her most recent victory was in selecting a 2019 Fantini Sangiovese which is now our general house wine.  The price is a whopping $8.95.

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How Sweet Wine Is

The sweetness of a wine is determined by how our taste buds interpret the interaction of a wine’s sugar content, the relative level of alcohol, acid and tannins. Sugars and alcohol enhance a wine’s sweetness; acids (sourness) and bitter tannins counteract it.

Among the components influencing how sweet a wine will taste is residual sugar. It is usually measured in grams of sugar per litre of wine (g/l). Residual sugar typically refers to the sugar remaining after fermentation stops, but it can also result from the addition of unfermented must (a German practice known as Süssreserve) or ordinary table sugar.

Even among the driest wines, it is rare to find wines with a level of less than 1 g/l. By contrast, any wine with over 45 g/l would be considered sweet, though many of the great sweet wines have levels much higher than this. The sweetest form of the Tokaji or Eszencia, contains over 450 g/l, with some vintages reaching 900 g/l. Such wines are balanced by the use of acidity. This means that the finest sweet wines are made with grape varieties that keep their acidity even at very high ripeness levels, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc.

The sweetness of a wine is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is sparkling or not. A sweet wine such as a Vouvray can actually taste dry due to the high level of acidity.  A dry wine can taste sweet if the alcohol level is increased.  

Medium and sweet wines are perceived by many consumers as being of lower quality than dry wines. However, many of the world’s great wines, such as those from Sauternes  or Tokaji, have a high level of residual sugar, which is carefully balanced with additional acidity.

People with more proteins in their saliva do not feel the drying effect of tannin as much as people with less. Another interesting fact is that the taste of tannin is reduced when paired with salty and fatty foods.

Our sense of smell also greatly affects our perception of sweetness. A wine that smells sweeter will also taste sweeter. Wine varieties are often referred to as ‘Aromatic’ because of their sweet floral aromas.  A few examples of this are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Torrontés, and Moscato.

The sweetness scale for wine ranges from bone dry to dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, sweet and very sweet.

THE WHITE WINE SCALE

Bone Dry with flavours of lemons and minerals

  • Pinot Grigio (Italy)
  • Pinot Gris (France)
  • Albariño (Spain)
  • Garganega (Italy)
  • Dry Furmint (Hungary)
  • Gavi (Italy)
  • Muscadet (France)
  • Chablis (France)
  • Grenache Blanc (Spain, France)
  • Macabeo (Spain, France)
  • Vinho Verde (Portugal)
  • Grillo (Italy)
  • Arinto (Portugal)

Dry with Savory and herb flavours

  • Sauvignon Blanc (France)
  • Verdejo (Spain)
  • Grüner Veltliner (Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic)
  • Veroiccho (Italy)
  • Colombard (France, California)

Dry with flavours of grapefruit and green apple

  • Vermentino (Italy)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
  • Dry Chenin Blanc (France)
  • Dry Torrontés (Argentina)

Dry with flavours of yellow apple and pineapple

  • Chardonnay (France, Australia, North America)
  • Marsanne (Switzerland, France)
  • Roussanne (France)
  • Sémellon (France, Australia)
  • Trebbiano (Italy, France)

Dry with flavours of peach and lemon

  • Pinot Gris (United States, Canada)
  • Viogner (France, Australia, North America, South America, New Zealand, South Africa)
  • Dry Riesling (Germany, Australia, Hungary, Washington State, Canada)

Off-Dry with flavours of honeycomb and lemon

  • Kabinett Riesling (Germany)
  • Spätlese Riesling (Austria)
  • Chenin Blanc (France)
  • Torrontés (Argentina)
  • Müller Thurgau

Semi-Sweet with flavours of tropical fruit

  • Moscato (Italy)
  • Gewürztraminer (Germany)

Sweet with flavours of sweet lemon and honey

  • Late Harvest white wine (Everywhere)
  • Sauternes (France)
  • Ice Wine (Canada)
  • Auslese Riesling (Germany)
  • Tokaji (Hungary)

Very Sweet with flavours of golden raisin, fig and apricot

  • White Port (Portugal)
  • Moscatel Dessert Wine (United States)
  • Passito (Italy)
  • Vin Santo (Italy)

THE RED WINE SCALE

Bone Dry with a bold, bitter finish

  • Tannat (France, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, South Africa, Italy
  • Nebbiolo (Italy)
  • Sagrantino (Italy, Australia)
  • Malbec (France)

Bone Dry with savory flavours

  • Chianti (Italy)
  • Bordeaux (France)
  • Tempranillo (Spain)
  • Mourvèdre (France)
  • Anglianico (Italy)
  • Barbera (Italy)
  • Montepulciano (Italy)

Dry with flavours of vegetables and herbs

  • Sangiovese (Italy)
  • Carménère (France)
  • Cabernet Franc (France, Canada)
  • Lagrein (Italy, California)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (France, Canada)

Dry with flavours of tart fruits and flowers

  • Mencía (Spain)
  • Valpolicella (Italy)
  • Rhône Blend (France)
  • Beaujolais (France)
  • Burgundy (France)
  • Syrah (France)
  • Merlot (France)
  • Trincadeira (Portugal)

Dry with flavours of ripe fruits and spices

  • Garnacha (France, Spain)
  • Amarone Della Valpolicella (Italy)
  • Negroamaro (Italy)
  • Pinotage (South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States, Zimbabwe
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia, Argentina, Chile, California)
  • Merlot (United States, Canada)
  • Alfrocheiro (Portugal)
  • Alicante Bouschet (France)

Dry with flavours of fruit sauce and vanilla

  • Shiraz (Australia, Chile, California)
  • Monastrell (Spain)
  • Malbec (Argentina)
  • Nero D’Avola (Italy)
  • Petite Syrah (United States)
  • Primitivo (Italy)
  • Zinfandel (California)
  • Grenache (California)
  • Touriga Nacional (Portugal)

Semi-sweet with flavours of candied fruit and flowers

  • Lambrusco (Italy)
  • Brachetto D’Acqui (Italy)
  • Recioto Della Valpolicella (Italy)

Sweet with flavours of fruit jam and chocolate

  • Port (Portugal)
  • Banyuls (France)
  • Maury (France)

Very sweet with flavours of figs raisins and dates

  • Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Vin Santo (Italy)

Final Thoughts

Depending on where a grape is grown, the characteristics may change somewhat.  The climate and soil can be a great influence over taste.  For example Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France can be very different from the same varietal grown in Canada or the United States.  The same applies to any other varietal grown in multiple climates.

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The Wines of European Georgia

The country of Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.   Grapevine cultivation and wine production has been taking place for at least 8,000 years.  The traditions of wine are considered entwined with and inseparable from the national identity.

Georgia has five main viniculture regions.  The principal region is Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia’s grapes. Traditionally Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like France does.  As with French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For example, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.

The best-known Georgian wine regions are Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.

Traditional Georgian grape varieties are not well known outside the region.  Although there are nearly 400 varietals grown, only 38 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia.

Georgian wines are classified in one of six different ways:  sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.

The better known Georgian wines include the following:

  • Lelo is a port-type wine made from the Tsitska and Tsolikauri grapes.  The wine has a rich harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful golden colour.
  • Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grapes. The wine is dark-pomegranate in colour and has a harmonious velvety taste with a chocolate flavour.
  • Khvanchkara is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli grapes.  It is one of the most popular Georgian semi-sweet wines.  It has a dark-ruby colour.

There are at least 17 different white wines, 16 red wines and 8 fortified wines produced in Georgia, all produced with grape varietals unique to the region.  Though I wouldn’t consider Georgian wines a staple in North American wine stores, they do become available periodically.  If you do come across one it would be well worth picking one up to try.

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