Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tiny Bubbles...

Will summer ever end?

Perhaps you're luckier in your neck of the woods. Because just across the river from Cincinnati, it's frickin' hot. And humid. And dry.

(What does the cheap wine man mean -- humid and dry?)

Yep. Every day's the same for the last two months. Highs in the 90's. Muggy. But no rain. Ever. We're over a foot of rain short, and everything is dry, brown, and dead. In a normal summer, I'd expect that the heat and humidity would get blasted down occasionally by a good long rain shower -- but we've had nothing. We sit, plastered to the Weather Channel, watching the radar -- which often resembles a doughnut with I-275 as the hole.

I'm whining, aren't I?

In any case, everyone searches for a way to beat the heat -- to find some kind of refreshment, while at the same time not making you heavy and sleepy. For the obvious answer, let us turn to Brigitte Bardot:

"Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I feel tired."

Of course, the Woman God Created was French, so she wouldn't be considering other sparkling wines. We here at the Vine are neither Francophile nor Bardotophile enough to rule out other nationalities of sparkling wine. In fact, if you're looking for relief from the heat, looking outside France is a good idea.

Why? Many sparkling wines made outside of France are considered "semi-sparkling." These wines aren't as carbonated as full sparkling wines. There's a definition which includes the pressure within the bottle -- under "three atmospheres" of pressure is considered semi-sparkling. For our purposes, a semi-sparkling wine is very lightly carbonated and generally lower in alcohol, which means you can drink them most any time of day without getting tanked. (Now, once you go for the second bottle, all bets are off.)

I know many folks think beer when it's blazing hot, but sparkling wine's lighter than the lightest light beer, colder than other wines, as refreshing as sparkling water, and quickly makes you forget that there's anything wrong with the weather. One thing to remember about sparkling wine (aside from the hangover if you're not careful) -- while it's good to keep a bottle or two around, it's best not to store them in the fridge. After a week or so, the cold will kill the flavors. Just get up in the morning, realize the weather's going to be ugly, and put the bottle in. Your wine will be plenty cold by lunch.

I don't know if these would put the pep back in Brigitte's step -- but they work for me:

Gazela Vinho Verde -- One of the few Portuguese wines that you'll find these days. Vinho Verde translates as "Green Wine." The name refers more to the age of the wine than the color. The wine looks almost clear. The wine's a blend of red and white grapes and is intended to be drunk within a year of bottling. It has a light citrusy nose that moves easily into a slightly tart flavor. I'd call the Gazela a "sauvignon blanc lite" with its flavors of grapefruit and lemon. It's a little dry on the finish, and the dryness is amplified by a slight carbonation. Technically, this wine's not a sparkling wine, but I see bubbles when I open it, so it counts. It's extremely easy to drink and, at only 9% alcohol, you could "Drink this one for breakfast," as a wine mentor of mine used to say. The Gazela is easily locatable in your wine store -- the bottle's very distinctive. I found this on sale for $5. A great value, and a nice wine to have lying around.

Borgo San Leo Prosecco Brut -- I've become hooked on Prosecco as this summer wears on. I think it's one of the most refreshing wines out there. Prosecco is an Italian grape that can be used for either fully or semi-sparkling wine. I've not run into many of the full-sparkling versions of the grape. The Borgo has a light, crisp nose of apples and a little yeast. It's fruity and dry to the taste, again with a slight yeast taste. The dryness was unexpected, even with the "Brut" tag. I thought it would be sweeter, but it was much more like Champagne. It's certainly much less sweet than most Prosecco. Finish is very dry, but pleasant. For $9-10, it certainly helps ward off the heat.

René Barbier Mediterranean Pétillant Wine -- An interesting marketing ploy for a decent wine. "Vin Pétillant" is the French term for semi-sparkling wine (as opposed to "Vin Mousseux" -- full sparkling). You need to read the fine print to see that this wine is actually Spanish in origin and is from Friexenet, maker one of my standby sparkling wines. This wine reminds me of a Spanish version of vinho verde. The flavor profile is very similar, except that this one has more of a flavor of apple then lemon, as well as a little bit of a yeasty flavor more reminiscent of a full sparkling wine. Again, under 10% alcohol and refreshing. I also found this for under $5.

You could line these three up -- Gazela, Barbier, Borgo -- and have a very interesting side-by-side-by-side progression. They'd come across as cousins. Of course, you'd then have three bottles open, so try it with friends.

Stay cool, pour some bubbly, raise a glass, hope for rain, and heed the words of Tom Waits:

"Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends."


Sapphire Stocking said...

Very nice blog. I found it googling for San Leo as I was so pleasantly surprised by what a nice house wine their SanLeo Bianco was in a pizza restaurant the other night. Why the hell did the waiter, after studying the bottle, say that it was chardonnay and soave grapes? I brought the bottle home and it says no such thing. I don't suppose you would know where I could buy it in the UK. (This is not to say that I don't just live for prosecco).

The Naked Vine said...

Wish I did. Although the gang over at Wine Sediments has a lot of UK contacts -- you might try asking over there...