Sunday, June 26, 2022

White, Red & Blue Sangria

                          White Sangria kicked off a "magnifico" Wine-Knows evening on Mallorca

July 4th is around the corner and I have the perfect drink sensation for your festivities:  white sangria made with Cava!    Decorated with strawberries and blueberries, this special rendition will have all of your guests begging for the recipe.  This was certainly the case on the island of Mallorca with Wine-Knows during a private dinner.  Fortunately, the chef was willing to share the ingredients, and the star component was unknown to me.

                                                        Spain's "43" is available in the US

I’ve had several white Sangrias but this one was unusually superb.   True, this version was made using Spain’s sparkling Cava, but it wasn’t the bubbles that were tantalizing my taste buds.  There was subtle, yet mesmerizing flavors that I couldn’t identify.   It turned out to be a Spanish liqueur called “43.”

Licor 43 (Quarenta Tres)  is a popular liqueur used throughout Europe, but remains essentially unknown in the US (except by bartenders who specialize in concocting upscale cocktails.)   Named because of the 43 herbs and botanicals used, it has a unique taste with notes of vanilla, cinnamon and orange peel.  In Spain, it’s not unusual to see "43" added to a coffee for an after dinner drink.  

                              This group of Wine-Knows is on their 2nd white sangria

I bought a bottle of "43" at Duty Free (Malaga's airport had a huge display) to bring home, however, I was surprised after I returned to see that BevMo carries it.   This white Sangria recipe is simple, but the flavors are complex.   I’ve adjusted the recipe for a 4th of July party (12 servings):


2 bottles of Cava

½ bottle of still, fruity white wine (avoid Sauv Blanc)

3/4  -  1 cup Licor 43 (to taste)

1 Quart (4 cups) sparkling lemonade

Strawberries & blueberries


Happy 4th!

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Surprise Origin of Fried Green Tomatoes

Savannah's Pink House serves the Holy Grail of fried green tomatoes in the form of a BLT salad

Gardens are now filled with green tomatoes and I've got just the dish for you.  Like many of us, my first introduction to fried green tomatoes was its namesake book published in 1988 and the popular movie that followed.
  For the last 30 years I’ve ordered these southern culinary morsels in Atlanta, New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Williamsburg, and all points in between… including Appalachia.  If they were on the menu (and even if they weren’t), they were my go-to dish.  Few times have I been disappointed.

Fried green tomatoes scream quintessential Old South….or so I thought.  My recent trip to rural Georgia piqued my curiosity on exactly how this scrumptious Southern signature dish originated.  After some research, I was shocked at what I found.  I think you will be, too. 

                  Unripe tomatoes are used because they haven't developed juice or sweetness


According to noted food historian Richard Moss, fried green tomatoes are Yankee imposters.  In his book, The Fried Green Tomato Swindle & Other Southern Culinary Adventures, Moss discloses that they may have been introduced to the US by Jewish immigrants in the Northeast or Midwest (recipes began appearing in American Jewish cookbooks as early as 1919).  But, wait a minute as there’s another theory on the origin of fried green tomatoes.  The LA Times published a recipe for them in 1908.   Indeed, Californians were eating them eight decades before the movie!  This makes total sense as California is the largest tomato producer.

   Fried green tomatoes are versatile:  this version is topped with burrata & fig with a balsamic drizzle


Surprisingly, the seemingly Southern classic fried green tomatoes didn’t make it to the South until after the movie.  There’s not a trace of them in Southern cookbooks before the 1980’s.   That being said, the South has fervently adopted this dish like no other region of the country.  On my recent Georgia trip, they were represented in some form on every single menu.  There was a standout rendition, however, heads and toes above all of the others.

Savannah’s Pink House, one of the South’s bastions for gastronomy, has long been a favorite of mine, and their rendition of fried green tomatoes is one of Georgia’s culinary masterpieces!   Food TV star, Aaron Sanchez, lists among the “best things I ever ate” a Fried Green Tomato BLT Salad from the Pink House.   I have dreamt of this salad and the stunning setting in which it is served since I first had it ten years ago.  (The beautifully coiffed building, which served as the headquarters for General Sherman, is a National Landmark offering all the glitz and glamour of pre-war Gone with the Wind). 

South City Kitchen (Atlanta) knocked it out of the park with goat cheese, fresh tomato coulis & basil oil


If you’re one of the Boswell Scholarship recipients coming on the private Scholar’s trip to Georgia, you can be assured fried green tomatoes will be on most of our menus.  And, the Pink House’s BLT salad interpretation will surely convince you that even though the South didn’t invent fried green tomatoes, Southerners have drawn it into their culture like a bee to honey.  

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Marvelous Mouvedre


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The French Riviera's village of Bandol is one of the epicenters for Mouvedre wine 

The red Mouvedre grape loves heat.
  That’s why you’ll find it growing in places like Spain, the South of France, California and the warmer parts of Australia.  Thought to be native to Spain, Mouvedre is perhaps most famous for the French wine it produces in the southern Rhone Valley.  The Rhone’s celebrated “GSM” blend, is composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.

                         Domaine Tempier produces rock-star Mouvedre in the Rhone

Mouvedre is a deeply pigmented, thick skinned grape which translates to a very dark colored wine (only Syrah is darker).  As tannins are also in grape skins, this  means a more tannic wine.   Because of these two attributes, Mouvedre is often blended with other varietals to provide more color and structure.   Mouvedre is also used for the same reasons in making Rosé wines in southern France.   Spain even uses this grape in making Rosé Cava.

                                        In Spain, the Mouvedre grape is called Monastrell

In addition to making big, full-bodied wines, the Mouvedre grape produces flavors of dark red fruits, a floral component (think violets), and herbaceous notes such as black pepper and thyme.    This is not a sissy's wine.   For food pairing, think big and bold such as BBQ meats that have been marinated in flavors that complement the wine such as lavender, rosemary and thyme.   For veggie lovers, try grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic, olive oil and fresh complementary herbs.


Those coming on this September's Week with Julia Child in Provence will have the opportunity to sample many wines made from 100% Mouvedre,  GSM blends,  and even Rosés.   For more information on this trip, check it out:

http://www.wineknowstravel.com/julia-2022-1-itinerary-2/  


Monday, May 30, 2022

Dry Gewurztraminer: a Cinderella Wine

                                       Alsace, France is ground-zero for world-class Gewurztraminer 

This is the last blog for the month of May on Alsace.  A final tribute to one of France's smallest wine district, this article is about Gewurztraminer----sometimes considered an "ugly step-sister wine."  The reason for this has nothing to do with its taste, but more due to the fact that many can’t even pronounce it.  (Turn on the sound of your computer to learn how to pronounce it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6H6QcFPCNI)  This fairy God mother article hopes to change your perception about "Gewurz" (as it is often referred).

            "Gewurz" is served in special green-stemmed glass only found in this part of France    


A Slipper that Doesn’t Fit 

Other than its difficult name, there are several reasons why Gewurztraminer might be the last wine chosen for the Prince’s ball.  First, it is mistakenly associated with Germany….and German wines aren’t so popular.  The best Gewurz, however, actually comes from France.   Alsace (France's far eastern wine district) is home to some killer Gewurz.  As Alsace is not typically on the average wine lover's radar screen, this is yet another reason why this wine gem remains unknown. Gewurztraminer is also often erroneously associated with sweet wine.  Wrong.  While there are some sweet renditions, but many Alsatian Gewurz are bone dry. 

                            Grand-Cru slopes of Gewurz grapes surround fairy-tale Alsatian villages

Why the Prince Should Purchase it for the Ball

Now that the reasons why Gewurztraminer is unknown have been explained, here are the reasons this stunning wine should be considered.   First, the wine is especially aromatic.  For women, its aromas are so enticing that it’s tempting not to not dab the back of one's ears with it.  Like a seductive perfume, Gewurz definitely is one of those wines that “had the Princess at bonjour.”  Intense floral aromas (think roses) are married with beguiling fragrances and tastes of exotic lychee and ginger.  The wine can also be laced with grapefruit/tangerine or pineapple depending upon how ripe the grapes were when picked. 

                                      This varietal is a perfect pairing for fish & seafood


Foods to Serve at the Ball 

Let’s explore next how dry Gewurtraminer works with food.   Both white fish and seafood pair beautifully with Gewurz.   Many foodies are stumped when choosing a wine for duck.   Gewurtz to the rescue!  Because of the wine’s ginger flavors, it also pairs well with dishes which have ginger in their recipes.   Curries and Moroccan tagines are just two examples.  Heavily spiced cuisines, such as Indian, also pair perfectly with a glass of an exotic Gewurtz.

        Europe at the time of its Christmas markets is like no other time of year you've experienced 

Princely Producers 

Alsace is a relatively small wine region, but its wines can be found in the US with a bit of diligence (especially online).  Trimbach delivers terrific quality/price at $20.   Domaine Weinbach is a stellar winery that you may want to try.   Weinbach's Cuvee Laurence is a dreamy, creamy dry Gewurz that will set you back $45-50.  Worth every penny, the wine is among the best of this varietal in Alsace.  


The Glass Slipper's Perfect Fit

Wine-Knows will be visiting Alsace the first week of December as part of our Christmas Markets of France & Germany trip.  As the Alsace region is known also as the epicenter of foie gras production (and has more Michelin star restaurants than any other region of France),  it's a gastronome's paradise.  Why not attend join this group and see if the Gewurztraminer shoe fits? 

www.WineKnowsTravel.com



Friday, May 20, 2022

France’s Luxury Textiles: ALSACE

                                  Beauvillé is synonymous with quality, opulence & tradition

This is a second article in the series on Alsace.  What does Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Catherine Deneuve, the White House, as well as the Royal Courts of Europe have in common?  The answer is they are all customers of Beauvillé , a premier French linen dynasty located in Alsace.  Fortunately for Wine-Knows going on this year’s Christmas Market in France and Germany, they will be visiting the factory where these extravagant linens are made.

                                    Beauville is known for the vibrancy of its colors

Beauvillé is a small family-owned firm where traditional woodblock and screen printing skills have been passed down from generation to generation for the past 200 years.   This company is all about quality.  Every single piece of Beauvillé is designed, printed, sewn and finished in house.  As many as 20 colors are used in one design and even the 25 custom dyes are all made at Beauvillé.  


   This popular design was available in placemats, napkins, tablecloths & runners

Beauvillé’s artisan designers create two new collections of linens each year.  Many of the more traditional patterns are inspired by 18th and 19th century designs where patterns were transferred onto the cloth by wood blocks, block by block.  Today many of the designs are crafted using the laborious silk screening process.  A separate screen must be used for each color.    

                The first layer of color has been applied....several more will follow

Those coming on the Christmas Market tour in early December will be able to purchase Beauvillé products at its factory store where prices are typically 25-30% less----perfect timing to purchase Christmas gifts for discerning foodie friends or family.  There’s also a back room bargain area for discontinued patterns, or have a small flaw that does not stand-up to the high quality of Beauvillé----in this part of the shop, savings are often 50% or greater.  

www.WineKnowsTravel.com



Saturday, May 7, 2022

Cool Climate Grapes, but a Warm French Soul: ALSACE

                           Alsace is one of the most under-appreciated wine treasures on the globe

This is the first of a three part series on Alsace during the month of May.  France’s smallest wine district, Alsace is located in the country’s northeast area.  This tiny wine region, which shares a border with Germany, has in fact passed ownership between France & Germany three times since the 17th century.   Think of it as an area of cool climate grapes, but with a warm French soul.

                        Grand Cru vineyards & hilltop castles surround winemaking villages 

Some of Alsace’s grape varietals are very well known...others not so much.  Most of its grapes are of French origin, but there’s one from Italy, and yet another from Germany.  Alsatian wine remains relatively undiscovered.  This may also be due to the fact that many erroneously think all Alsatian wines are sweet.  In fact, many of Alsace’s wines are dry.  Another possible reason for its obscurity, Alsace’s wines are inexpensive (in comparison to Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone).  Pricing has nothing to do with quality; like most things, Alsatian wine prices are based on supply and demand.  

          Enchanting Hansel & Gretel storybook towns mix with France's passion for wine-making

Alsace’s Main Grape Varietals

Gewurztraminer (or as it is frequently called, Gewurz), is actually a mutation of an ancient grape from northern Italy at the base of the Alps.  Traminer, the mother grape, is named after the Italian village from where it is thought to originate.  A light red varietal, Gewurz is used to make white wine in Alsace.   The varietal is known for its exotic aromas of roses and lychees.   Gewurztraminer will be discussed in more detail later this month.


Riesling

The Riesling grape is thought to be of German origin.  This green-skinned grape was once the darling of 19th century European royalty, commanding a higher price than both Bordeaux and Champagne.    Riesling, when grown in cool climates,  produces a floral wine with lemon-lime flavors.  Warmer weather brings out stone-fruit (especially apricot) and exotic flavors such as pineapple. 

                                   Domaine Weinbach is one of the area's many stellar producers

 

Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir

All of these three Alsatian varietals belong to the same grape family.  Even though Pinot Blanc and Gris are white varietals, they are actually mutations of the black Pinot Noir grape which is native to nearby Burgundy.  

Alsatian Pinot Blanc typically has an apple-almond profile, with a hint of spice.  Pinot Gris (known as Pinot Grigio in Italy), is more full-bodied, richer, spicier and more unctuous than it’s Italian counterpart.    Pinot Noir in Alsace used to be considered a light-bodied wine but this has changed due to global warming and better winemaking. 


                                Alsace's Christmas markets are an unrivaled experience

Wine-Knows will be hosting a trip to Alsace during its famous Christmas markets, December 6-16, 2022.  Come learn about the wines of this special French region during its most soulful time of year.

www.wineknowstravel.com

Monday, April 25, 2022

2 Roses Not to Miss---Their Origin Will Surprise!

                                                 Think out of the Provence box for Rosés !

Summer is just around the corner.  This means it’s time now to restock our wine cellar with plenty of Rosé.  I’ll be in Provence this September at Julia Child's villa* so I’ve spent the winter & spring searching for the best Provençal Rosés.   I've tasted several that received high-scores from esteemed critics, and spending as much as $30 a bottle.  I was disappointed in all of them.  The good news is that I have two magnifique Rosés for you. Neither of them, however, is from Provence.  In fact, neither is from France.

Both of these well-crafted Rosés, however, are from Europe and I sampled each one in their respective countries last autumn.  After my discouraging tasting of Provençal Rosés, I turned again to the internet for help in locating the two memorable Rosés from my latest trip.  Fortunately, I was able to locate both on the East Coast.  After allowing a couple of months to recover from shipping across the USA, another tasting was conducted to see if these two stunners were as good as I remembered.  They were.


                                       Muga's Rosado deserves one resounding Olé !

So what are the two Rosés that were heads above some of the most highly touted Provençal Rosés?   The first is made by one of Spain’s mover-and-shaker wineries,  Muga.   (Do note that Muga makes two different Rosés and it’s their Rosado that I’m speaking of, not Flor de Rosé).  Wine Knows has been fortunate to visit Bodegas Muga in the Rioja several times.  This winery has received just about every award there is.  In fact, James Suckling (Wine Spectator) has given some of Muga's wines a perfect 100 score.  

We had our first sip of Muga's Rosado at an impressively located seaside restaurant near Gibraltar---the Mediterranean was just to our left and the Atlantic immediately to the right.  The Rosé was so compelling that we returned to the same restaurant to dine three days in a row.  Muga's Rosado is made from Garnacha (Grenache) and Viura grapes, the latter being a white grape. We have tried their 2019 and 2020 vintages and both were noteworthy.  Purchased online in a case, count on less than $25 per bottle including shipping and tax.  A real steal.

                                    Even Dionysus would love Gaia's 14-18h Rosé

The other outstanding Rosé is Greek and produced by Gaia.   Wine-Knows groups have visited Gaia several times.  Last September I was on Aegina island (an hour's ferry ride from Athens) when I spotted Gaia’s Rosé in a wine shop.  I immediately bought a bottle and opened it to serve with dinner that night.  It was stunning.  The next day we returned to the shop and bought every bottle they had. 

Gaia is one of the top quality wine producers of Greece.  The winery pushes the envelope by experimenting with different varietals and even has conducted research on aging wine on the ocean floor.   This wine is named 14-18h Rosé because the Agiorgitiko grapes are kept in contact with their skins for 14-18 hours.  We have tried both the 2019 and 2020 vintages---both were superb.   A case of this remarkable wine with shipping and tax is a phenomenal bargain at about $20 per bottle.

Highly recommend at least a case of both of these well crafted Rosés for your summer stash.   Be sure to order them well before the heat of summer arrives.

* There is ONE opening in the Julia Child Week in Provence due to an unexpected surgery.   http://www.wineknowstravel.com/julia-2022-1-itinerary-2/