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Gil Kulers wine pick: N.V. Casal Garcia Vinho Verde
Published on: 05/10/07
• N.V. Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, Portugal
• One thumb up: Light, fresh aromas and tart flavors of green apple and lemon with a light "peachy" quality. Great when served cold.
If there was ever a poster child for summer wines, my vote would go to the white wines from Vinho Verde. The large wine region in northwestern Portugal produces wines with crisp acidity, low alcohol and a refreshing spritzy quality. Better yet, they benefit from spending a couple of hours at the bottom of an ice cooler, and they're cheap.
The wines are made from loureiro, trajadura and alvarinho grapes. The last one is the same as the albariño grape found across the border in Spain, where they make creamy, peachy, apricoty wines out of it.
In Vinho Verde, the wines are decidedly simpler and lighter. In fact, while vinho verde means "green wine" in Portuguese, the term refers to the wine's fresh, fruity youthfulness.
They also make a red wine in Vinho Verde. It comes in two flavors: harsh and very harsh. Not much red wine gets out of Vinho Verde, but if you find one, be forewarned.
There's more white Vinho Verde out there than red, but it is not exactly ubiquitous. Most well-stocked wine shops should have one or two on hand. Make sure you are getting the most recent vintage, as these green-behind-the-ears wines were meant to be drunk young.
A salute to North Carolina wines
If you love wine and are up for a five-hour drive, head for North Carolina on Saturday.
Some 37 of the state's wineries will be showing off their wares at Salute! The North Carolina Wine Celebration. The affair will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance and can be purchased at www.salutencwine.com.
A variety of music acts will be performing, and wines may be purchased at the festival. Special lodging rates at the Winston-Salem Marriott are available by calling 336-725-3500.
Gil Kulers, a certified wine educator with the Society of Wine Educators, is beverages instructor for the culinary arts program at Chattahoochee Technical College.
New gins are a tonic for spirits fans
By Charles Perry
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
May 9, 2007
Blame James Bond. Everything started going downhill, cocktail-wise, when he insisted on vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred. That sounded ultra-suave in the '60s, but the vodka martini has a fatal flaw: It lacks the heady aromatics and complex palate of gin (which must be why Ian Fleming actually specified a mixture of vodka and gin in "Casino Royale"). A straight vodka martini is a cocktail with a hole in the middle.
People were bound to fill that hole with something, and just look at what they're doing. The sugary, imitation fruit-flavored vodka cocktails being poured these days taste like some kind of naughty children's Kool-Aid party.
A lot of these cocktails are suffering from gin deprivation, leading to somewhat of a backlash. There's more interest in gin these days than there has been in many years. The best sign of a gin revival: In recent years, a whole category of boutique gins has arisen alongside the long-established brands.
The bartenders' favorite seems to be Hendrick's, a Scottish gin, which is so distinctive and yet refined that it creates remarkable cocktails. But keep your eyes open for other unfamiliar names, such as Junipero, from the San Francisco Bay area; France's Citadelle; a gin made by a Sonoma, Calif., winemaker, No. 209; and Old Raj, another Scottish entry -- plus from Metro Chicago, North Shore Distillery's Distiller's Gin No. 6.
Gin was invented for medicinal purposes by a 17th Century Dutch physician named Franciscus Sylvius, who added juniper berries, spices and other botanicals to distilled spirits.
During the 18th Century, the English took to drinking gin for its alcohol content, but in the 19th Century, despite gin's bad reputation -- it had become a byword for alcohol abuse -- bartenders noticed that its crisp, piney flavor performed excellently in mixed drinks. In particular, it wedded beautifully with the body and winy aromas of vermouth. The all-time classic gin cocktail is the dry martini, created 100 years ago, a cocktail so sleek and powerful it has been nicknamed the Silver Bullet.
As a result of this discovery, gin moved out of the categories of dubious medicine and cheap hooch to become one of the classic cocktail bases, along with whiskey, brandy, Champagne and rum. Gin is the only one of that group that is almost never aged and gets its aroma entirely from added ingredients.
It starts as grain spirit (vodka, in effect; many gin distillers are also vodkamakers these days). The botanicals are steeped in it, it's distilled one more time, and -- voila -- gin.
To be called gin, it has to include juniper berries; its very name comes from the French or Dutch word for juniper. This provides gin's unique, refreshing outdoorsy scent.
Gin always contains some citrus peel, either lemon or bitter orange or both. After that, the distiller has a huge range of choices. Coriander and anise are very common, but some gins use 20 or more botanicals such as cucumber, licorice, rose petals or almonds.
One of the most important is angelica, a cold-climate member of the carrot family that flourishes in Northern Europe. Angelica is astringent; it's the reason gin doesn't have a cloying aftertaste.
Another traditional ingredient is orris root, which has a mild, funky herbal smell somewhat resembling violets. More important, orris root binds volatile aromas, which would otherwise evaporate more rapidly.
But recently, more than a dozen specialty gins have appeared on the market, showing an extravagant variety of styles: powerful gins for memorable cocktails, delicate or exotic ones for sipping, new takes on classical gins with a twist of their own.
About half of the companies marketing the new-wave gins have long experience in spirits, such as mainline gin distiller Tanqueray and the French firm Cognac Ferrand. There's a surprisingly strong Scottish presence. Hendrick's comes from the Girvan Distillery, which supplies grain whiskey for the Grant & Sons brand of blended scotches. Old Raj is distilled for Wm. Cadenhead, a specialist in bottling high-end single malts. Ian Macleod Distillers, producers of Scotch and many other spirits, makes the remarkable Kensington, which tastes like a cross between gin and aged whiskey.
Other brands are mostly the work of newcomers to the business, based in places as various as Chicago, Santa Cruz, Calif., Princeton, Minn., and Bend, Ore. The Chicago area's North Shore Distillery was launched in November 2005 by a couple new to spiritsmaking. Sonja and Derek Kassebaum's Distiller's Gin No. 6 is infused with 10 botanicals: juniper berries, cardamom, coriander, cubeb berries (a member of the pepper family), orris root, angelica root, Ceylon cinnamon, anise seed, fresh lemon peel and lavender blossoms. Earlier this year, North Shore released a new gin, Distiller's Gin No. 11, based on the traditional London dry gin profile with plenty of juniper flavor. But it is available only in restaurants.
There's no single style to these new gins. But what many of them do have in common is small-batch production. The well-known gin brands, like most spirits in the modern world, are distilled in high-volume column stills. In contrast, many of the newcomers boast that they use the old-fashioned pot still. These stills are slower and less efficient than column stills but can make a more distinctive product
In the gin market, these brands are just the proverbial drop in the bucket. But they reveal new possibilities.
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