Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Overlooked Sparklings: Crémants

I have to admit it, I love Crémants! not only because I love drinking bubbles any time/ any day but because they are a great value, with bottles costing less than $25 each, Crémants cost exactly half of any bottle of NV Champagne. 

Of course the same can be said of Cava and Prosecco, some of which are even cheaper, but what makes Crémants so special is their finesse and quality! Though, they are not exactly French Champagne, but very close and in some cases, as we will see, made from the same grape varieties. But most importantly, they are produced in appellations known for their wonderful still wines, a direct result of the combination of the right terroir, viticulture and winemaking practices, and with an AOC behind guaranteeing not only the quality, but also the typicity of every wine produced.

But what are Crémants?

The French created this term to separate Champagne from all the other sparkling wines made in France.  Yet, Crémants share a few things in common with Champagne, from starters, Crémants are sparkling wines made with a second fermentation in a bottle using the Traditional or Champenoise method. But, Crémants are aged for less time. By law, Crémants must mature on their lees for a minimum of 9 months, similar to the aging of Cavas in Spain and less time than the 15 months required for Champagne. Like in Champagne, the fruit used to make Crémants must be hand harvested for this purpose, and whole bunch pressed with a limited must extraction of a maximum of 100 hectoliters per each 150 kgs of grapes, almost the same as in Champagne. According to Fédération Nationale des producteurs et élaborateurs de Crémants, the bureau who regulates Crémant production, almost 84 million bottles are produced every year. These can be either white or rosé and must come from 8 different appellations that include the following regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire & Savoie, all shown in the map below.

Let's explore the regions a bit further!

Crémant de Bourgogne

This is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir’s native territory, the same grape varieties that are used to make fine Champagne, are used to make Crémant here. Their terroir include soils such as limestone, granite, marl and chalk, which produce some of the most coveted table wines in the world. Let’s not forget that Bourgogne is located south of Champagne and enjoys its cool climate conditions, producing delicious acidity needed to create elegant sparkling wines. Bourgogne produces about 19 million bottles of Crémant  a year in 4 different styles: White Crémant de Bourgogne that could be a blend of Chardonnay, Aligoté and other white grapes. Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs, made from 100 % Chardonnay, Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs, made from 100% Pinot Noir and Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne,  made from Pinot Noir on its own or blended with Gamay.

In 2013, two categories were created according to the length of the time these wines age on their lees, the longer the aging sur lie, the bigger the complexity and quality of the wines. Eminent wines are aged for a minimum of 24 months on their lees before dégorgement, while Grand Eminent wines are aged for 36 months, the same time that is required to age Vintage Champagne.

Stylistically, white wines display brioche notes combined with floral, citrus and mineral aromas, Blanc de Blancs show green apples, peach or citrus notes while rosé wines feature red fruit aromas such as raspberry, cherry, blackcurrant and strawberry.

Crémant de Loire

The Loire Valley produces about 17 million bottles of Crémant per year from vineyards located in the towns of Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Chevery. Since making Crémant from Sauvignon Blanc is not allowed by law, producers use mostly the other important white grape of the Loire: Chenin Blanc, while.  Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are used mostly for rosé Crémant. 

Due to their northerly location, the whole Loire Valley can be considered to have a cool continental climate, with variations. Appellations in the east are influenced by the sea and closer to a maritime climate (mild and humid)  but as one goes inland to the west the climate changes. Soils also vary per region, and can include the following: sandstone, shale, chalk, gravel, sand or clay with silica. Acidity is noticeable in all Loire Crémants which most definitely will contribute to their finesse and freshness. Whites often display citrus (lime or grapefruit notes), quince, chamomile, white flowers and nutty notes while rosés showcase red fruits (red cherry and raspberry) with chalky minerality. 

Crémant D’ Alsace

Alsace produces more Crémant than any of the other 7 appellations, averaging almost 33 million bottles per year.  Crémant d’ Alsace can be made as a blend or as varietal using the following grapes: Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Auxerroirs and Pinot Noir.  That said, white Crémant is mostly made from Pinot Blanc, while Pinot Noir is used to make rosé Crémant. The influence of the Vosges mountains creates dry and sunny conditions, that combined with gneiss, marl clay, marl sandstone, shale and granitic soils, result in grapes of great quality and solid acidity. Alsace Crémants are pure and focused featuring aromas of yellow pears, green plum, white peach and brioche notes. 

Crémant de Limoux

Located in the Languedoc, South of France, Limoux produces  5.8 millions bottles of white and rosé Crémants. Limoux is very important from a historic point of view, as it is the home of the first French sparkling wine, ever produced, at an Abbey in Saint Hilaire in 1531, predating any records of Champagne production.

When dealing with Crémant de Limoux, it is important not to confuse it with Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine from the same region, and also made with the Traditional method, but with a different grape blend. Blanquette de Limoux is mostly made of Mauzac, while Crémant de Limoux is mostly made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc with a tiny percentage of Mauzac and Pinot Noir, that by law should be less than 20%.

The climate in Limoux is Mediterranean but  moderated by refreshing oceanic influences, altitude also guarantees cool nights as Limoux is located at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains. The soils are rich in chalk, sand and clay.

Stylistically, Crémant de Limoux showcases ripe citrus (orange zest, lemon pudding) and orchard fruit (white peach and apricots), with bright acidity and hints of spice and toasted bread.

Crémant de Bordeaux

Produces about 6.5 million bottles per year. The climate here is maritime, influenced by the sea and humid, featuring mild winters and sunny summers. The grapes used here are Semillon with some Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Rosé Crémant is made from red varieties including all the locals: Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, and tiny amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère.

Crémant du Jura

Produces 1.7 millions of bottles per year. This appellation enjoys a semi continental climate with cold winters,  warm summers and mild autumns. The soils are rich in chalk, clay and shale. Crémant is made of 4 grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trousseau and Poulsard.  

White Crémant must be made of 70% Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Trousseau. Rosé Crémant is mostly made from Pinot Noir, with some Poulsard or Trousseau.

Crémant de Savoie

Produces only 350,000 bottles per year. The Crémant de Savoie appellation is located to the east of Lyon. Crémants de Savoie are made from 60% Jacquère and Altesse grapes (local varieties), the rest could be complemented by Chasselas, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay. Each blend must have at least 20% of black grapes. Soils vary featuring limestone and clay with limestone, which provide finesse to the wines. 

Crémant de Die

This region produces only 202,000 bottles per year, this appellation is located on both riverbanks of the Drome river in South Eastern France. 

Crémant de Die was originally made of only one grape variety: Clairette but these days a percentage of Aligoté and Muscat Blanc are also allowed in the blend. 

Because of its southern location, it’s dry and sunny but with cool nights. With vineyards located at some of the highest altitudes in France, closer to 700 meters and near the Vercors mountains.  Soils are rich in clay and limestone. 

And now to my recommendations. Though 8 regions produce Crémants in France, unfortunately not all of them can be found in the US. The ones most widely available are: Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant Limoux, Crémant de Loire and Crémant D’ Alsace.  I chose my three favorites, hoping that you, my dear reader, will be able to enjoy them during the holidays!

Bichot Crémant de Bourgogne, NV $31

Domaine Bichot is known for producing some of the best red Burgundy wines. They also make a white and rosé Crémant. Their white Crémant is light and crisp, featuring tart green apple, ginger and lemon zest aromatics. It is made from equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Cote Mas de Crémant Limoux Rosé, NV $21

Showing a floral bouquet of white roses, with blood orange and peach notes. This seductive Rosé offers a lively fine mousse that invites you to keep sipping. Made from 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir.

Amirault Les Quarterons Crémant de Loire, NV $ 31.99

Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and aged for 18 months on its lees, this enticing Crémant is packed of fruit and acidity, including green pear and grapefruit with brioche and honey hints. Simply delicious!

Wishing all of my readers a Healthy and Happy Holiday season and Happy 2024! Cheers, Silvina.

#thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #Crémants  #sparklingwines #drinkupamerica

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Spicy Reds: Carménère!

Spicy reds are full of personality, flavor and pizzazz. Textbook samples of spicy wines are those made from grapes such as Malbec, Barbera, Pinotage, Shiraz and of course Carménère! These happen to be some of my favorite grapes to enjoy in the fall, no wonder I keep coming back to these delicious wines every year, as we transition to cool weather.

Originally from Bordeaux, Carménère, whose name derives from the French carmin (crimson), can be considered the Cinderella of grapes, mostly because at the beginning, Carmenère’s identity was ignored, misunderstood and mistaken to be something else.  In Bordeaux, it is one of the six allowed varieties,  joining the ranks of the classics: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. But there, it always played a minor role in blends. Then, in 1869, phylloxera arrived and devastated most of the French vineyards, causing Carménère to become almost extinct. When the time came to replant Carménère, the Bordelais chose not to do so, sticking to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which were better investments and easier to grow.

However, the Cinderella of grapes was destined to survive and thrive somewhere else. Starting in the 1850s,  just a few years  before the appearance of phylloxera in France, Chilean producers imported cuts of all Bordeaux grapes. They did so, like many others, to replicate the wonderful wines of Bordeaux. Cuts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménère were planted all over Chile. But here, Carménère didn’t shine on its own either.  See, the Chileans planted all these varieties, together, in a field blend and not separately as they do today, this resulted in Carménère being mistakenly labeled as Merlot.  The truth is, both grapes are siblings and share some common characteristics. But Carménère matures 3 to 4 weeks later and its leaves turn red during the fall. Because of these facts, Chilean growers started talking about 2 types of Merlot, calling CarménèreMerlot Chileno” or Chilean Merlot.  It was not until 1994, that French ampelographer Jean Michel Boursiquot discovered, during a visit to Chile, that most of this variety known as Chilean Merlot was in fact Carménère.  A year later, Chilean authorities recognized publicly their mistake and added Carménère to their list of grape varieties allowed by law.

Genetically, Carménère is a cross of Cabernet Franc and Gros Cabernet, having Cabernet Franc as a parent, made Carménère a close sibling of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Carménère shares with them its typical, green herbaceous notes from pyrazines, especially the spicy jalapeño, mint and green pepper found in most Carménères. Carménère also shares with Merlot its plushness, and ripe black fruit flavors that include: plum, blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry notes.  However, Carménère requires more warmth and plenty of sunshine and this is why it does better in Chile than in its native Bordeaux. It’s early budding and likes extra hanging time, deciding its ideal picking time is key to reflect the different styles, with two styles coexisting, the traditional or overripe Carménère, made so to mute the green notes from pyrazines and focusing in its black fruitiness character and the modern style which is refreshing spicy and elegant, showing hints of the pyrazines/green notes.

It took Chilean producers plenty of time and much trial and error to finally figure it out! Today, their aim is to obtain beautiful black fruit, keeping fresh acidity, balanced alcohol, matured tannins and just a touch of Carménère’s herbaceous, vegetal and spicy notes. As you may imagine, sites in Chile are very important, Carménère does not like fertile soils, and it’s mostly planted in decomposed granite, stony gravel and clay (iron rich) soils. It doesn’t like too much water either, as this will exacerbate its green character. Optimal trellising of the vines is used to aid grapes to reach perfect maturity (both in fruit and tannin), and green leafing to control its natural vigor. 

There are over 10,000 hectares of Carménère planted all over Chile, yet it does better in these top wine regions: Colchagua and Cachapoal in the O’Higgins region, Maule and Maipo. Top Carménères come from the appellation of Apalta, in Colchagua, which has a unique microclimate for this grape; other important enclaves include: Palmilla, Marchigüe, Santa Cruz, Peralillo and Nancagua. Famous are the wines from Peumo, located in Cachapoal, known for their structure and ability to age for 15 + years. Pichidegua, San Vicente and Las Cabras are also very good spots, all located in the “Entre Cordilleras” or between two mountain ranges in Chile. In Maule, further south, we find spots such as San Javier, Pencahue and Talca by the Maule River; Molina and Sagrada Familia by the Teno River and Cauquenes.

Stylistically, Carménère yields delicious medium to full body reds, with ripe black fruit, featuring notes of blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry, all of these blended with a touch of leafy freshness from green pepper, kale,  jalapeño or tomato leaf notes. With barrel aging, Carménère will also show vanilla, chocolate, espresso, grilled meats and soy sauce flavors. One of the things I truly love about Carménère is its texture, while Merlot is smooth and plummy, Carménère has a delicious fleshness/meatiness on the palate that makes it an excellent food match, not only to all types of beef and pork dishes (especially BBQ) but also to many vegetarian dishes, such as corn empanadas, vegetable quiche, grilled portobello mushrooms, artichoke pizza, etc. Carménère, like its siblings, also has tannin that provides backbone to its wines, without being as angular as Cabernet Sauvignon. In Chile, it is equally vinified as a varietal (on its own)  but also in blends, providing them with texture, freshness and spice. Besides Chile, where it has become a flagship, there are plantings of Carménère in North East Italy and in Jiaodong, China, where it is known as Cabernet Gernischt.

And now, here are my wine recommendations: 

I was lucky enough to receive plenty of samples, so selecting the final six was not easy. I made sure to select wines in different price points and from different regions, including both the classic and modern styles. While researching for this article I encountered the perfect definition of Carménère as “a jalapeño chocolate bomb”, indeed, if you try them, you will find these notes in most wines made from this variety.

Primus Carménère 2020, Apalta, Colchagua, $20.99
Made from organic grapes, this chewy red was aged for 12 months in 18% new French barrels, it shows ripe plum and blackberry notes, with balsamic hints, a dash of green jalapeño and dark chocolate bits from oak.  Medium plus bodied with grippy tannins that provide tension and structure to what it could be described as a classic or traditional style of Carménère.

Viña San Esteban In Situ Carmenere Reserva 2021, Valle del Aconcagua $13
Hearty yet so smooth, this red included 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon in its blend and is aged in both French and American oak for 12 months. This expansive red shows black cherries, cumin, black pepper and tomato leaf notes. Very balanced tannins lift up the gorgeous finish.

Morandé Carménère Vitis Unica 2021, Maipo $20
A powerbomb red from Cabernet Sauvignon’s own territory: the Maipo Valley. This luscious red  was aged in 2,000 and 4,000 liters foudres (80%) and the rest in French barrels. So fruity, rich and silky, showing plum compote and pomegranate notes,  with spicy cinnamon and roasted coffee bean hints. This is a modern style of Carménère. 

Los Vascos Cromas  Carménère Gran Reserva 2020, Colchagua $23.99
Made from 100 %  Carménère, this appetizing red is saturated with ripe plum and boysenberry fruit, combined with notes of nutmeg, graphite and roasted green pepper. So delicious and smooth, it reminds me of Malbec.

Terranoble Carménère CA2 Costa 2020, Colchagua (Costa) $36
Fleshy red made from grapes grown in granite and clay soils, this single vineyard wine was aged for 16 months, in a mix of foudres and new 300 liters barrels. It shows appetizing blackberry and ash notes, with spicy mint notes from pyrazines and a vibrant finish. Dazzling!

Montes Wings Carménère 2020, Apalta, Colchagua $55
Outstanding red made with grapes from the Apalta vineyard which includes 15% of Cabernet Franc, planted in granite soils. This wine was aged for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels. One of the finest Carménères I tasted lately, showing  blueberry and blackberry notes with black pepper and garrigue hints. So elegant and linear, with refined tannins, this one will definitely improve with cellar aging. 

Don’t you think it’s time to give all of these a try? I hope you do. Until the next one. Cheers! Silvina.

#thoughtsoflawina #Carménère #Chile #DrinkupAmerica #drinkchile #chileanreds

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Powerbomb Wine: Amarone della Valpolicella!

From the Valpolicella region, located to the north and west of the city of Verona, comes Amarone, a very powerful and expressive red wine, made from a blend of three native Italian varieties: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, with the occasional addition of Oseleta and Molinara grapes.

’s surprising that such a concentrated red can be created but this happens thanks to the Appassimento process, in which grapes are laid out on bamboo mats or plastic bins and left to air dry for a few months, becoming raisins. When this happens the grapes lose about 40% of their weight (mostly water) while sugar levels increase considerably, rendering flavor, high alcohol and glycerol. The raisined grapes are then crushed and pressed, obtaining this concentrated and unbelievable juice. The only risk is the development of mold or botrytis, which could give the wine faulty aromas and flavors, for this reason only, producers opt to raisinate grapes gradually and in special rooms under tight controlled temperature and humidity conditions.

Geographically, the Amarone area is influenced by the Adige river and its many fertile valleys where all types of produce is grown. The Alps in the north and west also have some influence in the vineyards, but not as strong as in the appellations in north Italy. The best vineyards for Amarone are located on undulating hills in the original Amarone Classica zone, and in the Valpantena zone on the east, both featuring well drained, volcanic, sand, clay and gravel soils.  
Pic of grapes air drying and map courtesy of the Consorzio della Valpolicella
Because the process of the Appassimento is so labor intensive and lengthy, Amarone wines are not cheap. If you want to spend less, consider trying the Valpolicella Ripasso wines. Known as “baby amarones”, Ripasso wines are made from the same grape varieties but without any appassimento. Instead, producers simply add some Amarone pomace or deposits, which allows them to have some of the concentration and intensity of true Amarones.

Stylistically, Amarones are powerbombs, with full bodies, high alcohol levels (15 to 16º ABV), noticeable tannins and medium to medium + acidity. Their intense and perfumed nose will show notes of  ripe black fruits: blackberry, tart black cherry, prunes, raisins and figs, blended with spicy notes of brown sugar, espresso, chocolate and molasses.
Amarones are usually dry but there’s also a sweet version called Recioto della Valpolicella that may contain from 4 to 50 grams of residual sugar. This residual sugar comes naturally from grapes, as the fermentation is halted before yeasts have the chance to consume it.

According to their minimum aging: Amarones are classified by law, in Normale (normal), which are aged for two years in French or Slovakian oak and Riserva, which is aged for four years. The general practice of most quality producers is to age all wines much longer and up to 10 years, before release.  Because of their massive structure, Amarones will only improve with cellar aging, allowing you to keep them for 20 years or more, concentrating their fig, chocolate and espresso character even further.

Top Amarone producers are Allegrini, Zenato, Masi, Speri,Tommasi, Begali, Musella, Brigaldara, Tedeschi, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Venturini, Begali, etc.
My recommendations include four wines presented during the Famiglie Storiche Amarone Seminar that took place on May, 2023 in New York:

*Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2017, $79.99
*Guerrieri Rizzardi Calcarole Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 $95.99
*Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2013 $181.99
*Musella Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Riserva 2010 $59.99

Flavorful, powerful, artisanal and delicious, Amarone wines have conquered the hearts of wine fans from all over the world, a treat all of us should enjoy for sure. Cheers! Silvina.

Remember to subscribe to receive Thoughts of La Wina in your inbox and to follow me on Instagram @Silvinalawina.

#thoughtsoflawina #amarone #italianwines

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


I first tasted and learned about Vermouth/ Vermut, through my paternal family. When I was growing up, my grandmother Rosa, known to her grandchildren as grandma Tota, drank Vermouth everyday right before lunch, she used to mix some Gancia, with a bit of seltzer water and ice and served it with cheese, olives and salami as an aperitif. Of course, my father picked up this habit soon enough, and drank Vermouth every noon himself, since enjoying vermouth hour was indeed very common in the 70’s and 80’s, a tradition copied from Spain, Italy and France, countries where this ritual continues today.

Vermouth or Vermut (in Spanish) comes from the German “wermut” which means wormwood, these are the bark/ bitters used to flavor Vermouth and Absinthe. Historically, it was the monasteries that in the middle ages, used to infuse spirits and wines with botanicals to treat different types of human ailments and illnesses. Now, the actual birth of Vermouth happened much later, in 1786, when an Italian bar owner named Antonio Carpano, created his first Vermouth made from a blend of Muscat wine with local botanicals and started serving it to his customers. As you may imagine, what started in a small bar in Turin became a huge success and pretty soon, many of the important brands emerged, names like Gancia, Cinzano, Martini and Campari. This inspired the French to create their own version, which included more bitters in the recipe and therefore creating a drier style. The French took a step further and founded the first Vermouth Appellation Controlée in Chambéry in 1932. 

But, what is Vermouth? Vermouth is a fortified wine, similar to sherry and port. It starts its life as a dry table wine, to which distilled alcohol is added to about 19% ABV. This alcohol usually comes from grape or beet based spirits.  The difference here is that Vermouth is aromatized/infused, similarly to Gin, by macerating the base wine with barks, herbs, fruits, spices and botanicals. 

Most common Vermouth come in two colors, white and rosso (red), though rosé and golden versions also exist. Red vermouth or Rosso, follows the Italian recipe and is always sweet while white can be either sweet (also known as Bianco) or dry (usually labeled as extra dry). The different flavors/ aromas of Vermouth come from each producer’s own proprietary recipe, and may include spices, such as cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, anise, cloves; fruits especially citrus peel from lemon, lime, orange and bergamot; green herbs like marjoram, chamomile, juniper, hyssop, ginger, sage, oregano and most importantly barks including wormwood (the key element of Vermouth), but also juniper, angelica root, licorice root and quinine. The taste varies according to the ingredients and according to the different levels of sweetness, which is added at the end, in the form of sugar syrup and/or grape juice concentrate, also known as mistelle.  

The base wine for Vermouth can be made from any grape variety and most producers use what is widely available to them, some of the most common grapes are Clairette Blanche and Piquepoul for French Vermouth and Catarratto, Trebbiano and Muscat grapes for the Italian versions. 

Stylistically Vermouth is full-bodied and mostly spicy, featuring herbal or leafy aromas, depending on the ingredients, vermouth can also be floral, or fruity, with citrus notes, but always with a hint of bitterness and tartness, that gives the wine an extra kick! 

The best of all is Vermouth’s longer shelf life, once opened, it can last up to 3 months in your refrigerator. 

Here are my recommendations: 

Boissiere Vermouth Extra Dry was originally developed in France in 1857, but the producer moved to Turin, Italy in the 70’s. This delicious, floral vermouth features rose petals and orange blossom aromas and is infused with a blend of botanicals that includes elderflower, chamomile and coriander.   This is a true value, costing only $10.99 a bottle.

Vermouth Mata Blanco and Vermouth Mata Tinto are produced in Bierzo, Spain. The Blanco is made from 100% Godello grapes and is aged for 40 days with a blend of roots and botanicals that includes anise, saffron, mint and thyme. Their red version on the other hand, is a blend of 90% Mencia with 10% Godello grapes and is macerated for 18 month with a blend of roots, flowers and botanicals that include anise, cloves, saffron, turmeric, bitter orange and sage.The importer of these vermouths (Patrick Mata) uses his own family’s recipe that dates back from the 1880’s. $21 each.

Vermut Flores Red and Rosé are originally from Uruguay, and are made with the most important red grape variety there,Tannat. These artisanal vermuts are infused with a blend of over 27 flavorings featuring wormwood, gentian, quina bark, rosemary and coriander and 4 flowers (rose, hop, elderflower and chamomile). $19 each.

Caperitif Lot 11 is an  extra dry vermouth/aperitif from the Cape, South Africa, featuring a base wine made from Chenin Blanc, Muscat and Bukettraube grapes. To this base, they add 35 to 45 flavorings that include flowers, grapefruit, herbs, bitters and spices, grown locally in the Cape Floral region. A portion of this vermouth is aged in old oak casks, adding even more punch to the recipe. This fancy vermouth is very dry, almost reminiscent of fine gin. $43

Chazalettes Vermouth di Torino Rosso is made using a recipe that dates from 1876 featuring: wormwood, artemisia, marjoram, angelica, coriander, lemon balm, ginger, bitters, cinchona bark among other enticing flavorings. It was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who in 1907 granted the Chazalettes the rights to bear the Real House emblem on their bottle labels. $29.99

And finally, Lustau Vermuts, which are different from the rest of the samples I tasted, as they have a sherry base. The Lustau Rojo is made from a blend of Amontillado and PX sherries with botanicals that include wormwood, sage, orange peel and coriander. The Lustau Vermut Rosé features a blend of Fino and Moscatel Sherries with Tintilla de Rota wine, the recipe includes chamomile, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom and wormwood. $19 each.

As you may see, Vermouth/ Vermut offers a huge variety of flavors for you to experience, whether you choose to drink it, with ice and seltzer water like I do, or in a cocktail such as the Manhattan, Negroni or Martini.  Cheers! Silvina.

Thank you to Ole Imports, Broadbent Wine Selections, Palm Bay Imports, Europvin and Global Vineyard for sending samples to me.


#thoughtsoflawina #vermut #vermouth #aperitif #drinkupamerica #fortifiedwines.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

New End of the Summer Favorite: Lambrusco!

Emilia Romagna, located in north-central Italy is the home of many food delicacies, including Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, Mortadella (known in the US as Bologna) and my favorite salad staple: Modena Balsamic Vinegar. It is also the home of a very special wine I’m drinking this summer: Lambrusco.

Made from clones of the variety of the same name, Lambrusco wines were a huge success during the late 1970s and 1980s. Back then, Riunite Lambrusco was one the most imported and consumed wines in the US. As the years went by, Americans chose to move to other styles, yet,  Lambrusco still has a fandom of consumers who love its fruitiness, its frothy style, crisp acidity and off-dry sweetness.  Above all, Lambrusco is a fun and refreshing frizzante wine to have in warm weather, I normally put it in the same category as Brachetto d’Acqui or Beaujolais Nouveau, in the sense that all of them are fruity reds that are served chilled.

Lambrusco is mostly produced by cooperatives located to the west of the city of Bologna, specifically in the provinces of Modena, Reggio nell’ Emilia and Parma. Most of its vine plantings are spread on the fertile plains of the Po river valley, but serious Lambrusco come from vines planted at the many hills (colli in Italian) of the Apennines, located to the south of Emilia-Romagna. Mass produced Lambrusco is usually sold as IGT Emilia, yet there are a few DOCs in the area too. As always, if what you want is quality, choose the DOC wines, coming from these appellations: DOC Modena, DOC Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, DOC Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro and DOC Reggiano

What to expect when tasting a Lambrusco?

First of all bubbles, these come from their second fermentation in pressurized tanks, using the Martinotti (Charmat) method. On the nose and the palate expect red fruits such as watermelon, strawberry, cherry and raspberry but also floral notes such as roses or violets.  Dryer versions will show mushroom, mineral, herbal and even vegetal notes. Above everything Lambrusco is a lot of fun, and quite affordable too! Expect also high acidity that will counterbalance both fruitiness as well as sweetness. It’s this acidity that cleanses your palate and makes Lambrusco wines a perfect match to all kinds of foods. 

Lambruscos are usually a blend of some of the more than 12 native clones, the most important are Lambrusco di SorbaraLambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and Lambrusco Montericco grapesEach of these will yield a different wine style: 

*Lambrusco di Sorbara is the lightest and most elegant of all Lambruscos, not only in body, but also in color. It features aromas of watermelon, orange blossom and cherries. It’s also very floral, featuring violet notes. Match these with spicy cuisine, such as Asian or Indian.

*Lambrusco Grasparossa is the biggest style of all the wines, in body, tannins, alcohol and color. It features deep purple tones and often shows black fruits, such as blueberries, plums and black currants. Match these with grilled sausages, barbecue and creamy pasta.

*Lambrusco Salamino is made from cylindrical grapes that look like salami (hence its name), this variety is also the most planted variety of Emilia-Romagna. It has the aromatics of Lambrusco di Sorbara with the structure and color of the Grasparossa. Ruby red in color, these wines show fruitful notes of raspberry, cherry and strawberry.  Match these with hamburgers, charcuterie, and cheeses.

Lambrusco also comes in different levels of sweetness, from dry to slightly sweet, so check your label for these terms: secco (dry) semi secco (semi dry) and dolce (sweet); as always, when in doubt, ask your wine sales person to point you to the right style. Ideally consume Lambrusco chilled, and within 2-3 years from vintage, while their fruit is still vibrant and super fresh.

My recommendations:

I have tasted and loved the wines of Cleto Chiarli for years, these are just three of their classic line up, that received awards in the 2023 Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Wine Guide:

*Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara Brut Frizzante 2022, $20

*Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco del Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara 2021, $22

*Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa Di Castelvetro 2021,$20

Hoping you will give these a try soon, cheers! Silvina
















picture courtesy of Cleto Chiarli. 


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