Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yes! Italians can make bubbly just as good as the French, and for much less money! Is “mass market” champagne – under threat from Prosecco??? It’s even passed its French rival as the best-selling type of sparkling wine!!!

At an open air event this past week;  I noticed that there were a whole lot of sparkling wines along side the beers in the coolers. A lot of regular folks enjoying it. After watching a guy underestimating the pressure of a Chandon bottle. I told my friend I would write about the bubbly. One thing is for certain the bubbly is now a lot more part of the mix for regular drinking.

Coincidently in the regular nightly news this week came across a RED ALERT! that it's been a very scary week for Prosecco fans and that the never-ending Sunday brunches are in danger! Oh my !some people are going to be beside themselves!!!
The newswire is saying that Prosecco may not flow quite as freely this year! What a calamity!

But before we get into this…

Let’s talk just a little about Prosecco and also Champagne…

Both Champagne and Prosecco are sparkling wines that take their name from the specific geographic regions they’re made in

We know that Champagne is French, and can only be made in the Champagne region there. Prosecco is Italian, and can only be made in the Veneto region in the northeast.

Champagne can only be made from three grapes in any combination:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Prosecco is made from an Italian grape called Glera.

Regular wines are only fermented once, but sparkling wines are fermented twice—this is where the bubbles come from. When they make Champagne, it ferments first in a wooden barrel, and then in the bottle you buy it in.  Prosecco’s two fermentations both take place in a stainless steel vat. It’s a quicker way to do things, which makes Prosecco both cheaper and also less able to age than good old Champagne.

Sales of Prosecco have shot up in recent years as people have discovered that the Italians can make bubbly just as good as the French, and for much less money!

Consumers have increasingly embraced Prosecco a more balanced, easier-to-drink alternative to Champagne; it’s even passed its French rival as the best-selling type of sparkling wine early in 2014.

Guess What ?!? The spike in demand has put pressure on Prosecco producers to amp up their output.

Champagne producers are somewhat concerned about the success of Prosecco. But global demand for champagne is rising too, even in markets such as the UK and US where Prosecco is popular. The prices of Champagne have been adjusting and falling as a response…

In 2014, Prosecco DOC sales increased by 27%, according to the Italian news organization Italy24. Prosecco export to the U.K. rose by more than 60% and increased to 38% in the USA, Italy24 also reported.

It is “mass market” champagne that is – or really should be – under threat from Prosecco.

Is this actually be a good thing for the French champagne producers?

It might force them to decide whether they really want to be the market leaders in inexpensive bubbly, or would rather exploit the strength of their protected brand "Champagne" and charge very high prices for a quality product.

Currently, they are trying to do both. It’s a tough decision especially when Prosecco is gaining ground.

OK, let’s get back to the Prosecco calamity…

If you thought the Greek financial crisis was the biggest disaster facing the world, or the Ukraine standoff, or the Chinese property crash – think again. Something really dreadful is about to hit. There is going to be a global shortage of Prosecco. So said Robert Cremonese, export manager of the popular Prosecco brand Bisol.

"Last year's harvest was very poor, and down by up to 50% in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage," Cremonese said in an interview with the trade publication The Drinks Business. While the supply is limited, demand is up, according to reports.

The Prosecco DOC, which is made up of territories and provinces in northeast Italy received a lot of rain in the last year, according to Cremonese.

"A lot of the vines in the DOC area are newly planted and they ended up being soaked – the grapes were rotten and yields were down by nearly half in some cases," Cremonese told The Drinks Business.

Yet, Prosecco’s governing body has stepped in to calm fears of a looming shortage, claiming that yields were smaller than expected, the 2014 harvest went ”far beyond the target”. – Wine Business

To further stir the pot; in a phone call with The Huffington Post on Friday, Domenico Zonin, the CEO of Zonin, Italy's largest privately owned wine company, also said that there's no cause for alarm. He doesn't think it'll end up making a serious difference in prices or availability.

Nevertheless, it’s out there…a shortage of the Italian bubbly could occur as a result of high demand and rainy weather.

Despite the fast-rising demand, Prosecco prices have been pretty steady. For the Italian producers, this is a disappointment. With demand rising so fast, they should be able to charge more. The gap should have closed between champagne and Prosecco. It hasn’t. This is probably because even though Prosecco tastes every bit as good as inexpensive champagne – indeed arguably better – it is still not "Champagne" though.

Mind you, inexpensive champagne is something of an oxy-moron. Champagne is a luxury good, and luxury goods tend to be Veblen goods – we drink more of it as the price rises….go figure.  

So it's the demand for good-quality champagnes that is holding up well in the market; since they are not really challenged by Prosecco yet…

...And truly, investment Champagnes have never been so expensive. People just can't get enough of the good stuff!

There you go. I told you it was a calamity!




Thursday, June 4, 2015

One of Wines great companions is Cheese…Cheese makes you Happy! Here are some Easy Tips for Selecting Cheese and Accompaniments...

One of wines great companions is Cheese…Cheese makes you happy! A natural feel-good food. Even though these days, it has a bit of a decadent reputation where health, nutrition and weight loss are concerned.

Cheese is actually quite good for you.

Arguably, in our modern minds: far too much emphasis placed on diets and “low fat” options.

Here in America you can just look at the fortunately-slender and cheese-obsessed nation of France and wonder.

In fact, three of the world’s biggest cheese-consuming countries – France, Italy and Greece – have some of the lowermost rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease in the Western world.

Go Figure…

Probably the more you mess with food the worse it is for it…

Cheese is an excellent non-meat source of protein. It is packed with calcium. It’s also loaded with Vitamin D, which helps our bodies to absorb that calcium, along with folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, and Vitamins A, B2, B12, and K2. All that good stuff that can’t be denied.

Factoid: When consumed together with calcium, vitamins K2 and D3 are especially good at protecting your bones, brain and heart. Cheese has all three.  ..

How about that!.. Great News…Spread it!

So here are some Easy Tips for Selecting Cheese and Accompaniments...

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue.

 For a good variety, choose at least one from each group…

Here are some basic cheese examples:

  Aged: Aged Cheddar, Goat Gouda

  Soft: Camembert

  Firm: Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano

  Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Stilton

Another way you can try is by selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This is where it can get interesting and experimental. It will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.By the way, try to serve at least one familiar cheese that you know for sure…

How Much do I buy?

Well…plan on buying 3 pounds for 8 people, 6 pounds for 16, or 9 pounds for 24. Another way to think about it is to plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person.

What Accompaniments?  What else can we eat with Cheese!?!

Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette,  and crackers in all different shapes and sizes.   

Note: It’s a good idea to vary the taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.

Other accompaniments include jarred jellies and preserves; or honey, chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add roasted red peppers and maybe prepare caramelized onions, which is a complement to most cheese plates…

Think also of what sweet and salty items often match up  well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami. Nuts and pistachios are good…Also, dried fruits such as figs or cherries, pears are really good.

Here are some serving tips:

Separate strong-smelling cheeses from the milder ones...

If you want to serve a pungent, stinky cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones.  Four or five choices are enough; more often than not these 'really' are the stars of the show and they pair up great with wine.

Just for starters, for me...the hard cheeses pair up with a Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet or a Chianti.
A Brie or triple cream cheeses with an un-oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. For those Blue Cheeses, try a sweeter wine like a Tawny Port, late Harvest Riesling and Ice Wine.

Set out a separate knife for each cheese, mainly the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter style knife; the firm cheeses might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane with a handle to slice slivers, but I like to them in small chunks myself.

Remember Cheese tastes a lot better when approaching room temperature so remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Cold cheese stifles the flavors and aromas