wine

Mediterranean Sparklers

 
FUNNILY ENOUGH, IT WAS MY Polish father who introduced me to the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco. His lifelong love of all things Italian began in his 20s when he spent several of his army years in Italy during World War II and then stayed on for a year afterward as well. But I have to credit Commissario Guido Brunetti—the police inspector of Venice in Donna Leon’s novels—with opening my eyes to a more day-to-day appreciation of it: The detective can often be found drinking un ombra with cicchetti (Venetian snacks) at a bar midday, or sipping it as an aperitif or with his professor wife Paola’s fabulous home-cooked meals.
 
Prosecco is just one of the sparkling wines of the Mediterranean that are perfect for toasting the holidays. Ask your local wine seller for their favorite producers and bottles. Here are a few I’ve liked, from Gotham Wines, my neighborhood wine store, and Astor Wines downtown. When the wines are available from the stores’ online sites, I include a link.
 
ITALY/ Prosecco
Mionetto IL Prosecco D.o.c. di Treviso, $10
Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine made from Glera grapes. While Champagne undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, with the second fermentation taking place in stainless steel tanks. Mionetto has been making Prosecco since 1887 in Valdobbiadene, just north of Venice, the area where most Prosecco comes from. This bottle often shows up chez nous to celebrate, well, just life. The producer suggests it’s “perfect with brunch, lunch, dinner or potato chips.” You get the idea.
 
Mionetto Valdobbiadene Superiore D.o.c.g., $18
Made from 100% prosecco grapes from a single vineyard, this dry gentle sparkler has a floral bouquet with apple and peach flavors. (At Gotham Wines store.)

FRANCE/ Blanquette de Limoux
From Languedoc Roussillon in southern France. I was interested to learn that Benedictine monks started making sparkling wine here in 1531, a century before the first Champagne was produced. Estate-bottled, this wine today is considered “qualitatively close to a high quality non-vintage Champagne.” Apparently, Thomas Jefferson liked it back in the day, too.
 
SPAIN/ Cava
A vintage estate-bottled cava, served to me just the other night with mezze by my friend, Brenda. That is true friendship.
 
GREECE
Made following the Champenoise method by Tselepos, a small respected family winery in the Peloponesse, from Moschofilero grapes.
 
 
And on my list to try soon, a few staff picks from my friends at Gotham Wines:
 
Penisola Sorrentina “Gragnano,” $16
A dry red frizzante (slightly bubbly) blend of Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciasinasso grapes, made on the Sorrento peninsula in southern Italy. It’s favored as a good match for pizza, working well with the tomato and the cheese. Or any light meal, for that matter.
 
Rosa Regale, Banfi, $18
A sweet red sparkling wine from Piemonte, with a wonderful burst of raspberry on the palate. Pairs beautifully with chocolate.
 
Castello di Luzzano “Magot,” $22
A white frizzante made from Pinot Nero grapes in Lombardia. Light straw yellow, fragrant on the nose, crisp and well-balanced. “For the sophisticated palate,” according to my Gotham guru.
 
Gotham Wines & Liquors
2517 Broadway (at 94th St)
New York, NY
212-932-0990
info@gothamwines.com
 
Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette Street (at East 4th St)
New York, NY
212-674-7500
customer-service1@astorwines.com
Twitter: @astorwines

Best Med Diet Dish at...Taberna [closed]

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN of small plates and making a meal out of a succession of appetizers so it was good news when a new tapas bar—Taberna—opened on the Upper West Side this summer. Chef Jennifer Cole spent a dozen years or more working as a chef in Spain (including at Michelin-starred Balzac in Madrid) before returning to New York. Lucky us. The menu is full of little composed masterpieces of Mediterranean ingredients—seafood, vegetables, beans, olive oil. Specials change frequently, depending on what’s in season at the market. Earlier in July, I paid a visit.
 
Each of the four small dishes we ordered, which made a satisfying dinner for two, was full of complex flavors. As each plate was presented, I realized that what I like about this way of eating is that it is interesting—and I don’t mean that in the polite way we sometimes use the word when we really mean “less than great.” Each dish was an experience unto itself, an inducement to mindful eating that we could savor fully before going on to the next. A glass of Laxas Albariño 2009, a lovely crisp white wine with fruity aromas, from Galicia in northwestern Spain, was a perfect accompaniment.
 
The meal began with an amuse-bouche on two white ceramic spoons—salpicón de pulpo from Galicia, made from small dice of octopus, peppers, onions and tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette. A promising start.
 
Next was marinated trout with white bean salad—what a wonderful contrast between the fish and the creamy white beans.
 
 
Pisto manchego (Spanish ratatouille) with quail egg, Serrano crisp, and parsley gel is a great example of the Mediterranean use of meat as condiment rather than plate-filler—in this case, a slice of dry-cured Spanish Serrano ham (similar to Italian prosciutto crudo or French jambon de Bayonne), sautéed briefly to make it crispy.
 
 
 
To finish up the meal….delicious baked goat cheese. 
 
 
Some other recent specials I’ve seen on the menu—mussel squid salad with heirloom tomatoes, Catalan croquetas with spinach, golden raisins and pine nuts—sound enticing. I’ll be back!
 
Taberna
429 Amsterdam Avenue, nr. 81st St.
New York, NY 10024
917-388-3500 

Rioja Restaurant Week Ends May 27

You have nine more days to enjoy a $25 prix fixe lunch or $35 prix fixe dinner—including a glass of Rioja wine—at one of 25 great participating restaurants in Rioja Restaurant Week. Not all the restaurants are Spanish; the list includes Thai, Indian and American choices, too—a clue to the versatile pairings possible with a Rioja.
 
 
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