Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Temperature Matters

Serving wine at the proper temperature is something we all struggle with here in New Orleans.  It's really an issue in the US in general; we drink our reds to warm and our whites too cold.  Especially here in the sub tropics - our reds suffer severely from the idea that they are best served at "room temperature".

The beautiful underground cellars at Antonio Caggiano's winery in Campania
The whole room temperature red wine thing came out of Europe where those lovely stone castles and chateaus, lacking in central heat,  remain a constant 60 some degrees. Then there are those cool underground cellars at where their whites rest at a perfect 55 degrees.  That is a far cry from our poorly insulated below sea level homes in our stifling humidity and 90+ degree temperatures!

So what's the big deal?  What does it really matter what temperature you serve your wines?  I guess that all depends on the drinking experience you are looking to have.  If your goal is to guzzle down a big high alcohol red so you can get a quick buzz to start your weekend, then chances are you don't really care how it's showing.  But if you really want to experience a wine at it's best, temperature matters.

When we pour a white wine directly from our frosty 35 degree refrigerators to our glass, the aromatics and flavors are suppressed. The cold brings out greater astringency, which means the wine can  tastes sharp and tart.  And our room temperature average of 72 degrees for reds?  They lose all their finesse and freshness to an overpowering sensation of alcohol and tannin.  They're flabby, out of balance and not as enjoyable as they could be with a little help.

But you don't need to have an fancy wine cellar to serve/drink your wines at the proper temperature.  If you store white wine in the refrigerator, take it out 20 minutes before you want to pour it. To cool down reds (or room-temperature whites), all you need is an ice bucket filled half with ice and half with water. If you’re in a hurry, throw in a cup of salt.  You can get to the right temperature in 10 minutes in an ice bath; or you can put reds in the fridge for about 45 minutes if you are thinking ahead, with whites, 2 hours in the fridge should be perfect.  That’s all it takes.

Kerry is more of a stickler about the red wine thing than I am - I'm usually impatient and just want a glass of wine.  Sometimes I think she waits too long and the wine gets too cold!  With whites, I like them a bit warmer, Kerry- super cold! So to help us both out, I got these little wine bottle digital temperature cuffs. You put them on a bottle, give it a few minutes and it reads the temperature of the bottle.  

So I  put one of the digital thermometers ($16 at swirl) on a bottle that is down in the dark corner where we store our wine at home and got this: 72 degrees.  Upstairs in the kitchen while we are making dinner? Yikes! 75 degrees! In the fridge 30 minutes? A perfect 63!  

Here's what we should be shooting for:  Typical temperature for serving red wine ranges from 52ºF - 65ºF, and 45ºF- 50ºF for white wines.  If you really want to get picky about this, there are different temperature suggestions for different varieties (see chart below).  But I think if we just shoot for the averages for now, we'll all be happier wine drinkers!  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Aperol Spritz, a Classic Italian Beverage

While you can order an Aperol Spritz just about anywhere in Italy, its beginnings are in the north.  It is particularly popular in Venice and Verona where it is the aperitivo drink of choice.  It's bright orange color is unmistakable and while it is served in a variety of different glassware, the recipe remains the same.  This is the classic recipe from Aperol, the company who has produced this low alcohol spirit since 1919.  We'll be serving these at our first Aperitivo Thursday this week at Swirl.  Come over and try one with a complimentary plate of snack from our friends at Good Eggs!

Aperol Spritz
3 parts Proscecco
2 parts Aperol
Splash of club soda

Fill a wine glass with ice. Add the above ingredients and garnish with half an orange slice. Insert straw, close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a lively piazza it Italy! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Aperitivo, The Happiest of Hours

Verona from Lamberti Tower in Piazza Erbe
It's somewhere around 5pm.  The sonar sound coming from my ipad tells me it's time to wake up from my very brief nap.  I hear Kerry rustling around in the livingroom as I slowly try to focus my eyes and will my self from the bed.   After an exhausting 3 days sampling hundreds of wines at Vinitaly in Verona, we only have a few more hours left to explore this beautiful city and I need to perk up.

The Adige River in Verona
Out of the apartment we take a right and walk the few blocks toward the Adige River which winds around in a crescent shape with the historic center of the town nestled inside.  A city that dates back to the Romans, the ancient cobblestone streets are lined with Medieval palaces, elegant churches and bars and restaurants with small terraces perched over the banks of the river.  We duck inside one for a much needed espresso and the icy orange drinks being prepared at the bar can mean only one thing - it's aperitivo time in Verona. A trend that started once upon a time in Milan and can now be found all over Italy, an aperitivo is a glorious couple of hours, a little something before dinner; an aperol spritz or maybe a prosecco or a glass of wine, accompanied by a small snack, great people watching and lively conversation.

Bars and cafes line the piazza.
Continuing our walk, we contact James for a meeting time in Piazza Bra for our last aperitivo of the trip.  We get there early and I start perusing the perimeter of the square checking out the cafes to see who has the best offerings. Some simply provide olives and chips, others get a bit more elaborate with a plate of small nibbles like bruschetta, focaccia, or even meats and cheeses.  I of course chose the latter and James appears just as we are about to sit down.

A round of "spreetzs", the beckoning bright orange drink, for all as we settle in to take in the scene around the piazza while nibbling on our snacks.  The bars and cafes are buzzing with activity, the evening passeggiata is in full swing as the locals enter the marble lined Via Mazzini and stroll to nearby Piazza Erbe.  The coliseum towers mystically over the square reminding all of ancient beginnings of this beautiful place.  There is a joyfulness here that is hard to capture in words, a lightness in the people, an energy in the air that is positively enchanting.

Hoping to recreate that special feeling, we're excitedly starting our own aperitivo at Swirl on Thursdays. There will be a special drink menu for the evening, all Italian of course.  Your first drink will be accompanied by little something extra; a small plate of nibbles, local fare provided this week by our friends at Good Eggs.

So please join us this Thursday, May 8th anytime  between 5:30 - 7:30 for our first aperitivo, a joyful couple of hours after work to relax with friends, take in the lively scene around Faubourg St. John while sipping on a delicious Italian beverage.


Coravin, Drinking High End Wines and Never Popping the Cork!

It's Sunday night and I've cooked a really nice piece of crispy skin salmon.  For some ridiculous reason, Kerry wants to drink a beer.  I, of course, want wine.  Digging through the wood boxes stuck in the dark corner of the downstairs hallway, I'm in search of something for me to drink with my meal.  I realize I have a dilemma - the only appropriate wine, in my mind, to have with my fish is the 2008 Moises Holmes Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and at almost $40 a bottle, it's not the one to pop open on a whim, drink a glass or two and put in the frig hoping it holds until the next time I'm at home and looking for something to drink.  But now my mouth is watering thinking about drinking this wine and how lovely it will pair with my salmon....

Enter Coravin, the solution to my problem!  I had brought home our new gadget and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.  Unwrapping the box, I'm a bit nervous - it looks like a cross between a microscope, a drill press and one of those silly rabbit wine bottle openers.  I take my time, read the directions and follow the steps to readying  the "device" - take the yellow safety piece off of the needle, insert the gas capsule and test the gas.  Ok. looks like we're good to go.  

Clamping it on the bottle, it's time to insert the needle. Making sure everything is lined up properly, it goes in with an easy push from the palm of my hand, right through the foil and into the cork. I pull out one of my awesome Reidel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses and get ready to pour.  Tilting the bottle above the glass I give the trigger a quick press, release, and out it comes - the translucent but deeply tinted perfect shade of garnet lovely Pinot Noir. Into my glass it flows until the bowl fills to my desired amount.  Turning the bottle upright, I hear the quick hiss of the argon gas being released into the bottle.  Out comes the needle, the bottle goes back in its resting place until its services are required on another day, the perfect pairing just a pour away... After a glass and a half I thought about having a little Barolo, but then realized I was just being greedy :)

The top of the bottle - you can see where the needle pierced the foil.
Coravin offers a revolutionary way to drink or serve high end wines without worrying about oxidation - the cork is never pulled and the instant insertion of gas means that it never sees air.  For more info on how it works, check out the Coravin site or sign up for our Special Coravin Flite Nite this week where we'll be offering the following wines to chose from.  A flite of 3 will be $25.  Reservations are recommended as we are only pouring 12 flites.  You can reserve here with a credit card, Coravin Flite.  

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino, $85
Winemaker's Notes
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino is ruby red tending to garnet. It's very intense, with a persistent nose with red fruit notes. There is a warm, balanced flavor with velvet-smooth tannins and long-lasting aroma. A beautiful Brunello made in the traditional style, produced exclusively from Sangiovese grapes picked by hand from vines at least 20 years old.

Critical Acclaim
"The estate’s 2007 Brunello di Montalcino has developed beautifully over the last year. Freshly cut flowers, dark raspberries, spices and mint all take shape in a 2007 that impresses for its freshness and pure energy. Sweet roses and violets linger on the finish. I imagine the 2007 will enjoy a very broad drinking window. Today it is drop-dead gorgeous. The combination of dry extract above 34 and acidity north of 6% is exceedingly rare and suggests the wine will age for several decades. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2047."
95 Points The Wine Advocate

"Medium red. Reticent nose hints at red berries, marzipan and nutty oak. Fine-grained, fleshy and highly concentrated, without any undue impression of weight. Lovely sappy sweetness accentuates the wine's inner-mouth perfume. Really builds on the very long, even, sweetly tannic back end, which stains the palate with red fruits, flowers and complex soil tones. This strikes me as more typical perfumed sangiovese than the darker, more locked-up, more obviously structured 2006 riserva."
95 Points International Wine Cellar

"A wine with roasted meats and dark fruits on the nose and palate. Full body, with soft and velvety tannins and a juicy and fruity aftertaste. So delicious and seductive. Drink now or hold."
94 Points James Suckling

2008 Fisher Coach Insignia, $87
Winemaker's Notes
The Coach Insignia honors our family's tradition of craftsmanship, first represented in fine automobiles of the 20th century with Body by Fisher and now in Fisher Vineyards' wines of the 21st century. The Coach Insignia Cabernet represents the pinnacle of our winemaking craft, comprised of the finest selected lots of Bordeaux varietals from our Napa Valley Estate.

Critical Acclaim
"Deep ruby. Highly fragrant aromas of red and blackcurrant, dried cherry, anise and herbs, with sexy oak spice and floral qualities adding complexity. Sappy and expansive in the mouth, offering sweet cherry and dark berry flavors. Turns spicier with air and finishes quite long, with fine-grained tannins and a late note of black cardamom. "
93 Points International Wine Cellar

"The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Coach Insignia is a gorgeous, refined wine laced with expressive red fruit, flowers, mint and licorice. The elegant, feminine side of Cabernet comes through, along with a hint of mocha and spice from the presence of 8% Cabernet Franc in the blend. Hints of sweet herbs and licorice reappear on the finish. Today the 2008 looks to be a fairly early-maturing wine, but I don’t think that will be much of an issue based on how delicious it is."
92 Points The Wine Advocate

2010 M. Chapoutier "Les Granits" Saint-Joseph Rouge, $76.99 
In Saint Joseph, as in Hermitage, elevated soils of high granite composition give Syrah a unique style. Made from 60-80 year old vines this rich and expressive Syrah is dark garnet in color and features aromas of black fruit jams (blackberry) and mineral overtones. Smoky, peppered notes, with a long persistency in the mouth.
Chapoutier owns some of the most famous plots in the Rhône, including 34 hectares within the tiny Hermitage appellation. This collection of highly sought after wines is coined "Selections Parcellaires".

Critical Acclaim
"Most of the fruit comes from hillside vineyards in Larnage. The 2010 St.-Joseph Les Granits (870 cases produced) is a more flowery, elegant, feminine-styled effort than Les Varonnieres. A deep purple color is followed by sweet aromas of Chinese black tea, graphite, blueberries and black raspberries. With a flowery character, superb purity, full body and a precise, crisp finish with plenty of wet rock and powdered stone-like notes, this 2010 should age well for 15-20 years. "  
94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

"Bright purple. Potent aromas of black and blue fruits, incense, licorice and black olive, with a bright mineral topnote. Sappy and precise, offering deeply pitched blueberry and cassis flavors and an exotic floral pastille nuance. The mineral quality comes back strong on the finish, which lingers with outstanding tenacity and clarity. There's a tension to this wine that suggests it will be a long-distance runner."
93 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

2010 Gaja Ca'Marcanda Magari, $79.99
Winemaker's Notes
The word "Magari" has several meanings: "if only," "would that it were true," "perhaps." Ca'Marcanda's unique combination of terre brune (dark soils: loam and clay) and terre blanche (white soils: stones and pebbles) is reflected in Magari. Deep garnet with blue tinges. Lush Merlot fruit and spicy Cabernet aromas. Magari showcases the essence of the upper Maremma. It's a full, rich, well-rounded wine with an elegant, silky finish.

Critical Acclaim
"Showing spectacular traits of the vintage, the 2010 Magari (50% Merlot and 25% each Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc) is a dark and modern wine with a thick fabric of dark fruit, blackberry preserves, spice and tobacco woven tightly together. The mouthfeel is exceedingly plush and there’s a sweet oak note of toasted almond or Spanish cedar on the close. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2026. "
94 Points The Wine Advocate

"Fresh and bursting with black cherry and plum fruit, this red has density and a well-integrated structure. Builds to a long finish of fruit, spice and mineral. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc."
90 Points Wine Spectator


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