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¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

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HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC.  Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day in style. ¡Salud!

 

 

#CesarChavez and the fruit of the vine

27 Mar

Chicos y chicas, Monday is Cesar Chavez Day, and in honor of his birthday on March 31, I’m re-blogging a post about the United Farm Workers, the labor union he founded. By the way, you can catch the new Cesar Chavez movie, in theaters this weekend! And no, I’m not getting paid to promote the film (de nada, Pantelion Films). Here’s the trailer: 

 

…and here’s the blog post!

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Sideways,” Virginia Madsen’s character waxes rhapsodic about wine. Among the many things wine evokes for her are thoughts of the people who picked the grapes.

Image courtesy of Work Permit via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Work Permit via Wikimedia Commons

 

United Farm Workers (UFW), the labor union founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012.

It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that the topic of labor unions is a touchy issue for some gente. Regardless of where you stand, we’re all rooted in the same vast vineyard of humanity, and this post is presented in the spirit of learning about one chapter in the history of a movement that has had an impact on the wine industry.

One historical point that many wine lovers may not be aware of is that Cesar Chavez himself was a fan of red wine. Perhaps even less known is that the UFW made its own wine six years ago to commemorate what would have been their founder’s 81st birthday. Black Eagle Wines takes its name from the stylized bird on the UFW’s logo.

Image courtesy of UFW.

Image courtesy of UFW.

Although the wine is no longer available for purchase, the union has a limited reserve that it continues to pour at its banquets and special events. A Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon were released under the label. At the time the wines hit the market, a spokesperson for the UFW noted that their target customers were young Latino professionals whose parents may have been farm workers.

Today, Cesar Chavez is credited by some not only for establishing better working conditions for farm laborers, but for starting a movement that would inspire hundreds of thousands of workers across various industries in the U.S. to seek better lives for themselves and their families.

So the next time you raise a toast, take a moment to think of everyone who played a role in producing the elixir in your glass, a liquid masterpiece that has been enjoyed for thousands of years by billions of people, our predecessors in the great vineyard of life. ¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Sauvignon Blanc

20 Feb

Happy almost-weekend, chicas y chicos! You may recall last month’s debut edition of ¡Mucho Gusto!, where I introduce you to a particular type of wine. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, mucho gusto is what you say when you first meet someone. It’s like “nice to meet you,” but it would translate more directly as “with great pleasure.”

Gusto has many meanings, including “taste” and “flavor,” so consider ¡Mucho Gusto! a delectable play on words and a way to familiarize yourself with wine. So here we go…

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile, California and France.

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile, California and France.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine.

MY ROOTS: Sauvignon Blanc was born in France’s Bordeaux region. A bit of trivia – the grape variety hooked up with Cabernet Franc sometime in the 1700s and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive in Bordeaux. Because French wines are geographically labeled and not named for the actual grape, “Sancerre” and “Pouilly-Fumé” are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc was planted in other countries including New Zealand, the U.S. (California), Chile, Australia and Italy. Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc, so if you see this on the grocery store shelf, it’s Sauvignon Blanc.

ALL ABOUT ME: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine made from an aromatic grape, hence its distinctive aroma. You may get nectarines, white peach, grapefruit, grass and herbs, gooseberries, and believe it or not, kitty pee. French Sauvignon Blanc may also display a flinty, gravelly minerality. Most Sauvignon Blanc is stainless-steel fermented, so you won’t get the woodsy, oaky notes you’d find in Chardonnay.  It’s also known for its refreshing, crisp acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: You can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and seafood. The wine’s crispness complements the buttery texture of white fish and scallops. I’ve had it with oysters and it’s to-die-for amazing. Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal wine for vegetarian dishes. This is a great wine for salads, since the herb notes of the wine will match the crisp greens in the salad and the acidity matches vinaigrette dressing. For some Latin flair, pair Sauvingon Blanc with guacamole (the acidity of the wine “cuts” the creaminess of the guac) and spicy dishes like enchiladas and chile relleno. I love Sauvignon Blanc with Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken in a cilantro sauce).

DO TRY THIS AT HOME:  The beauty of Sauvignon Blanc is that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. You can get a good bottle for $10 – $20. Of course, you can pay upwards of $150 for a classified Bordeaux blend. Some well-regarded labels include: Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Matua Valley from New Zealand; Laville Haut-Brion, Alphonse Mellot and Pascal Jolivet from France; St. Supéry, Kunde and Matanzas Creek from California; Montes, Concha y Toro and Viña Leyda from Chile.

So here’s wishing you ¡Mucho Gusto! as you get to know Sauvignon Blanc. Until next time…

¡Salud!

 

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Barbaresco

22 Jan

Happy Wednesday, chicas y chicos!

I’m still reveling in the newness of 2014, and in my never-ending quest to bring you snob-free wine knowledge, I’d like to introduce you to ¡Mucho Gusto!, a brand-new feature on Señorita Vino. Well, it’s not literally on me, but you get the picture.

Once or twice a month, I’ll be focusing on a different wine, with a bit of history, flavor and aroma characteristics, pairing ideas and maybe even a recommended label or two. The purpose of this new department is to inspire you to learn about and taste wines you may not typically drink. Some you may have heard of, others not, but I promise you’ll learn something new, even about wines you already drink.

So without further ado, heeeeeeeere’s Barbaresco!

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HOLA, ME LLAMO: Barbaresco is a red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape.

MY ROOTS: Barbaresco hails from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. It’s a DOCG wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest quality ranking for Italian wines. Bear in mind that California, Chile and Mexico also make wine from the Nebbiolo grape, but the wine can only be called Barbaresco if it’s produced in designated districts in Italy’s Piedmont region.

ALL ABOUT ME: Barbaresco is a dry wine known for having softer tannins than its “cousin,” Barolo, an Italian wine also made from Nebbiolo grapes. For this reason, Barbaresco is considered by some to be easier to drink than Barolo. Because the wine is aged in wood for a maximum of two years, you may smell cedar or oak. Barbaresco has lush berry and plum aromas, along with floral notes of violet and spices such as vanilla and licorice. This is a full-bodied wine, which means it will feel heavier on the palate and have a higher alcohol content.

FOODS I LOVE: Because of the tannins and body, Barbaresco pairs nicely with the traditional meat and game stews of northwestern Italy. Want a little Latin sabor? Pair it with carne asada, seco de cordero (Peruvian lamb stew), carnitas or roast pork. If you love a good charcuterie plate as much as I do, try it with salami,  mortadella, and if your arteries can handle it, lardo di Colonnata.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Expect to pay anywhere from $14 to $400 or more for a bottle of Barbaresco. You can get a good one for $30-$60. Some respected labels include: Ceretto, Gaja, Pio Cesare, Bruno Rocca and Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy.

Now that you’ve met Barbaresco, what do you think? Is it a wine you think you’ll try? Are there other wines you’d like to see in a future ¡Mucho Gusto!? Share your comments – I’d love to hear from you.

¡Salud!

A #Pisco Cocktail for Peruvian Independence Day

27 Jul

Break out the lomo saltado and the bottles of pisco, chicos y chicas: Tomorrow is 28 de julio, or Perú’s Independence Day ! I know I promised you part 3 in the Canadian wine series, but guess who’s up to her eyebrows in deadlines? So in lieu of the final installment in the Canadian wine series, I present you with a re-blog of a post that was a hit about this time last year: Señorita Vino’s very own “Caipirinka” recipe: A Peruvian twist on a Brazilian classic, with pisco (of course!) as the main ingredient. So shout it with me one more time: ¡Que viva el Perú, carajo! 

Variety, chicas y chicos, is the spice of life, so to add a little sabor to your weekend, it is my supreme pleasure to introduce my latest invention…the Caipirinka. It’s a refreshingly  exotic blend of mangoes, lime and pisco.

Yep, it’s like the Brazilian Caipirinha but with a two-fold Peruvian twist: 1). Pisco is the national drink of Perú*, and 2). Mangos grow happily in Perú. And of course, there’s 2a: Señorita Vino’s parents hail from the land of the Incas.

If you’re not familiar with pisco, it’s a clear alcoholic spirit made from grapes. Some say it’s comparable to Italy’s grappa and Greece’s ouzo. And  like grappa and ouzo, pisco can knock you flat on your asti spumante, so be forewarned: un poquito goes a long way.

Adding to the Caipirinka’s uniquely Peruvian flair is the mango. Perú is one of six countries that exports mangos to the U.S.  The mangos I used to make the Caipirinka were generously provided by the Mango Board, which probably had no idea I’d use them to make an alcoholic beverage.
In case anyone’s keeping track, this is arguably the world’s most nutrient-rich cocktail. Mangos contain more than 20 different types of nutrients and vitamins, and just one cup of mangos is 100 calories and provides 100% of your recommended vitamin C allowance. See? Señorita Vino cares muchísimo about the health (and girlish figures) of her readers.

I used fresh, pureed ataulfo mangos, the oblong, bright yellow fruit in the photo above. ¿Porqué ataulfo? Because this variety has no fibers and is as smooth as butter, making it a great option to blend in cocktails or fruit smoothies. Not only that, but the flesh is gloriously golden, calling to mind the gold treasure of the Inca empire. Now there’s a culture that literally worshipped its bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here’s how you can add a little Inca gold to your Peruvian Independence Day celebration. Because we all have different palates (See “Vino 101″), you may want to adjust the amount of sugar, lime or pisco. If you do up the pisco content, Señorita Vino takes no responsabilidad if you wake up in an exotic land, covered in gold sequins and tropical bird feathers. ¡Salud!

*There is some debate between Perú and Chile as to which country ‘invented’ pisco. It was Perú, of course (see 2a above).

Señorita Vino’s Caipirinka 

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 cup of ripe Ataulfo mangos (about 2), cubed

6 tablespoons of  sugar syrup (make ahead: Dissolve 8 tablespoons of baker’s sugar into 8 tablespoons of water in a pan over low heat. Bring to a boil, then boil for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate. Keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge).

8 ice cubes, cracked

4 key limes (or 2 regular limes), cut into small wedges. Save a few slices as a garnish, if desired.

4 teaspoons raw cane sugar, divided

4 ounces of pisco

3 additional ice cubes, cracked

In a blender, place the 8 cracked ice cubes, the mango and the sugar syrup. Blend until the mango is completely liquefied. Set aside. Place an equal amount of lime wedges into four small glasses. Add a teaspoon of raw cane sugar to each glass. With a muddler (see photo) or wooden spoon, crush the lime and sugar until it forms a paste.

Place the remaining three cracked cubes in a cocktail shaker. Add 2/3 cup of the mango puree and the pisco and shake until condensation forms on the shaker.

Shake it, chica!

Pour immediately into the cocktail glasses. Garnish with lime wedge if desired.

Beyond Pisco: Peru’s emerging #wine industry

30 May

“Pisco’s handy but wine is dandy.” That’s an old Inca proverb, and if you believe that, there’s a vineyard in Florida I’d like to sell you.

Corny jokes aside (blame it on my mid-afternoon stamina crisis), Peru is on the verge of a winemaking renaissance, thanks to a renewed interest in a tradition that dates back to the time of the Spanish conquest.

Peru was the first South American country in which organized viticulture was actively encouraged, a little factoid you can toss around at your next wine tasting party (most folks will guess Chile or Argentina).

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru's longest-standing wineries.

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru’s longest-standing wineries.

Learn how Peruvian winemakers are getting ready to take their wines global in this hot-off-the-press article I wrote for Latina magazine’s food and wine website, TheLatinKitchen. com. Hear from two experts in Peruvian enology about everything from the history of Peruvian winemaking to which varietal grapes are being used to make wine today. You’ll also find out where Peruvian twenty- and thirty-somethings are getting their vino knowledge.

Some Peruvian wines are available in the U.S. at specialty wine stores or online, so if you’re in the market for something different, give them a try. Grilled alpaca steaks not included.

¡Salud!

Three things you need to know about Moscato

8 May

Naional-Moscato-Day-Logo

Chicas y chicos,in honor of National Moscato Day, which is mañana, May 9, I’d like to offer you three fun factoids about the wine that’s on everyone’s lips (and palates) these days, and share some tasting notes about Gallo Family Vineyards‘ Moscato. Before we go any further, here’s El Full Disclosure: The fine folks at Gallo gifted me a bottle of their Moscato and sponsored this blog post. However, the opinions (and factoids!) presented here for your reading and drinking pleasure are entirely my own.

So sit right down, pour yourself a glass of Moscato, and enjoy the three things every wine lover should know about Moscato.

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1. Moscato goes by different names in different countries. “Moscato” is actually Italian for Muscat, one of the oldest known grape varieties in the world. In Spain, it’s called Moscatel. Moscato is thought to be one of the few wines that actually tastes like the grape, and if you happen upon a Moscato vineyard, don’t freak out if bees and wasps are swarming the fruit of the vine. They’re drawn to the grape’s intoxicating floral and honey-like aroma and it’s decadent sweetness.

2. Moscato can be made in various styles. I personally think Moscato is one of the most versatile wines out there. You can have it sweet or dry, still or sparkling, or as a syrupy dessert wine. The wine can be white, pale pink or even red. I sampled Gallo’s Moscato, which is pale gold in color and happens to come from Muscat grapes grown in Australia. This wine has peach and citrus aromas, two scents that typically characterize Moscato, and it’s sweet on the palate.

3. Moscato pairs beautifully with fresh fruit, fruit-based desserts or spicy foods. Depending on which style of Moscato you’re drinking, there are pairing options for various food courses. A sweet Moscato can take the burn off of a spicy main course (I’m lookin’ at YOU, chile relleno and chicken tikka masala!) or complement  the sweetness of fresh fruit or a fruit tart. A sparkling Moscato is an elegant aperitif and the perfect way to start a brunch.

If you’re looking for an excuse to uncork a bottle of Moscato and share your new knowledge, let’s party! Join me tomorrow night for the #gno (as in Girls’ Night Out–but guys are welcome, too!) #MoscatoDay Twitter Party, Thursday, May 9 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Time (9 to 10 p.m. Eastern).

In the meantime, here’s a quick and easy recipe for a yummy Moscato cocktail, courtesy of our amigos at Gallo Family Vineyards. See you tomorrow night, and ¡salud!

The Moscato Gimlet 2

Moscato Gimlet

(serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz.     Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato
  • 1 oz.     Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Agave Nectar

Preparation: Combine ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lime.

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