Thursday, July 24, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Spritzing Like They Do In Italy!

The Winey Mom sipping a Spritz in Rome
One of my Spritz breaks. I saw them served
mostly in this oversized red wine type glass.
Another post about sipping like an Italian, or as I call it, "What I Did On Vacation." This time, I'm going to tell you how to make a Spritz. If you want to sip like they do in Italy, you've got to know about this drink. I was alerted to its existence by a Winey Friend who was in Italy just before we were, so I was prepared to look for it. But as I soon found, you don't need to look far. It's on nearly every menu there, but in different areas of the menu. For instance, one restaurant could have it listed under the aperitif (before the meal) section. Another could have it listed under cocktails. And a few of them had it listed with the soft drinks. (Quick soft drink aside here: if you order coke, ask for "American champagne". It'll get a laugh out of your server and show them that yes, you know that you are American, that you have a sense of humor and that you still want it anyway. Personal experience here.)

Spritz originated in Venice, but you can find it anywhere you go in Italy. Don't confuse it with a wine spritzer, which is wine mixed with seltzer (and considered by some to be a waste of wine - why DILUTE it, for heaven's sake?). The Winey Son and I enjoyed many of them (ahem) on the very hot June and July days and nights we spent in Italy.

Italian menu listing for Spritz
 Spritz listing on a menu - grouped
this time with cocktails. 
bottle of Aperol
The Winey Mom's brand
new bottle of Aperol. 
The basic ingredients for a Spritz are Prosecco (Italian white sparkling wine), Aperol (an Italian aperitif, a liqueur with a bitter orange taste) and seltzer water. Whenever we had it, it was garnished with orange slices. Typically, you'd use a dry Prosecco, as opposed to the sweet variety (but it might be fun to experiment sometime!). There are other liqueurs you can use to make a Spritz (Campari, for one), but the ones we had were all made with the bright red Aperol. So as soon as we hit the USA, I headed out for a bottle of Aperol (don't buy it in Italy, it'll just make your suitcase heavier and it's easy to find here) and some Prosecco (whatever brand you like - but since I was mixing it to make a Spritz, I kept my price point to under $15, which is easy to do). I usually have some club soda hanging around, so I used that.

Now, as for the actual "recipe" for the drink. Let me put it this way, if you ask 20 different people how to make chili, you will get the same basic dish, made with varying amounts of spices, meats, beans and veggies. So it is with a Spritz. You have three ingredients and can mix them up in a ton of different ratios (but don't take my word for it, go ahead and google "Italian Spritz recipe" and see for yourself). One page will tell you to add all three in equal amounts (i.e.: one part Prosecco, one part Aperol, one part soda). The back of the Aperol bottle suggests 3:2:1. (I've also seen 2:1.5:1, but who has time for all that math?) I started out with 3:2:1, since it was the one I saw the most. If you are totally against a bitter taste, go less on the Aperol, but the bitter taste was really what gave the Spritz its zesty kick. You could also add some more orange slices, but I suggest saving them to the end of your drink and then eating them - yummy!!

What you will taste in a Spritz is a bubbly, sour fruit drink.  It is a very refreshing drink. (The smaller Prosecco bubbles meet with the big old club soda bubbles and really go to town!) It is very easy to drink, especially if you are thirsty, so consider yourself warned.

And now I have some Winey homework for you all: Make a Spritz. Tell me what kind of Prosecco you used, what ratio you decided on, and what you thought about it. We can compare notes and survive summer's hot weather all at the same time.

And in the meantime.... Cin cin (translation: cheers)!!!!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: When In Rome....Drink Frascati

We did it! The Winey Family is just back from a long awaited trip to Italy, a country we have been saving and scheming to visit for about 2 years. To misquote Julius Caesar: "Venimus, vidimus, omens nos" (translation: We came, we saw, we did it all!) From the sightseeing to the eating  and shopping and of course, the wine, it was the trip of a lifetime. Over the next few posts, I'm going to tell you a little about the Italian wines I sipped, and I'm going to start out with a wine that will come up every time you hear the phrase "Italian wine": Frascati.

I cannot lay claim to knowing
families eating dinner in Rome
A splendida serata (wonderful evening) in Roma!
about Frascati before heading over to Italy and our first stop, Rome. It just so happened that in the way of all great minds, one of our best buddies from college (we are all proud Northwestern University alumni) was also visiting Italy with his family this summer, and we discovered that we'd have a night in the eternal city together. Plans were made to get together for dinner, and it was there that The Winey Friend and his wife told us they'd tried Frascati the night before and loved it.

I picked up some info on Frascati after our dinner from a cookbook I had bought in Rome*. It's a varietal from the Castelli Romani hill town of - what else - Frascati. It's one of the oldest Italian wines - Pope Paul the Third was a big fan, and he was Pope in the 1500's!! It is usually a drier wine (there is a sweet version, but it's rare) and is usually a sparkling wine.

wine cork from a bottle of Frascati Superiore
I didn't lug the bottle all over Italy,
but I did save the cork!
The Frascati we drank that night was Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore DOCG (2013, 13.5%, Italy).  It was the sparkling kind, and started out with a nose of fresh air. No flowers, no smoke, not anything but a whiff of fresh air. The tiny bubbles were very lively in the mouth and the flavors were layers of minerals, followed by faint lemon and a hint of flowers. It finished on a bit of sour citrus (Meyer lemons).  Our friend said it best when she remarked, "It's light but it's full of flavor." I think the bubbles had something to do with it. They just took all the minerality and citrus and exploded them in my mouth. It was wonderful paired with my white fish dinner, but would be terrific with shellfish, chicken, pizza, prosciutto or just about any food you can think of that you'd eat al fresco on a gorgeous June evening while you are in Rome.

Maybe you are thinking that my glowing review of this wine is a bit prejudiced by the fact that while sipping it, I laughed and reminisced and talked and ate and laughed some more. But given the fact that I'll soon be on a hunt to find some Frascati here in Ohio, I'd have to say that I liked the wine as much as I loved the evening we spent drinking it. Frascati is available lots of places but I will caution you to plan on drinking it soon after you buy it. As the Casale Marchese website says,"Frascati should always be consumed before the next harvest starts." In fact, it's on sale about a month after its first bottling. Good excuse to drink up promptly, isn't it?

Cin cin!

*The Flavours and Scents of Rome. 2013 ed. Rome: L'Ortensia Rossa SRL, 2010. Print.
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