Best Ideas for Unusual Wine and Liquor Pleasures for Every Celebration
John Dunham & Alison Blackman
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ev’ry where you go. Take a look in the five-and-ten, it’s glistening once again, with candy canes and silver lanes that glow.It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Toys in ev’ry store. But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be on your own front door.”
So begins the “modern” Christmas song, written by Meredith Willson in 1951 (and popularized by singer Perry Como).
Worthy of note is the Chanukah begins as Christmas does this year, on December 24th and Kwaanza starts December 26th. This is definitely the time to celebrate with wine and spirits.
We wanted to suggest some special products that you might not have heard of or tried. Each of these products is unique in its own right.
Amaro Lucano Anniversario
Instead of the usual aperitif for your holiday celebration, why not try something different?
We sat by the fire and sampled an Italian digestif, a liquor called Amaro Lucano Anniversario , or “Aniversary Amaro.”
This version of the classic Amaro Lucano celebrates the 120th anniversary of the founding of the company Amaro – which means bitter in Italian.
We’ve tried a number of bitter Italian digestive “liquors” but Lucano Amaro is quite different. It’s based on a secret recipe of 30 herbs, citrus peels, and spices. These include sage, orange peel, cinnamon, and elderberry, as well as a bunch of Italian herbs and flowers that frankly we have never heard of.
The ingredients are infused in alcohol, producing a product that is very much like a cocktail bitter. This herbal extract is then aged for a period of 5 months. After that the aged extract is mixed with water, sugar, and other ingredients to achieve a proper consistency and alcohol content.
Amaro is typically served neat, but may also be drunk on the rocks or with tonic. We had the Amaro Lucano Anniversario on the rocks. It is 68 proof and medium brown in color, resembling iced coffee in our glasses. On the nose, it was herbaceous, with some mint notes (honestly, a bit like cough syrup) but wiith some green notes.
But then the similarity to anything “medicinal” ends. This is a celebration drink! Anniversario was sweet up front and then bitter toward the finish but in a flavorful way. There were some light citrus pith notes in the middle of the palate. It was a surprisingly flavorful product which would be excellent served after a meal. Possibly at a celebration with a fine cigar, or at a cocktail party with some olives, tapenade, or a strong cheese.
Sparkling Friuli Grave
Celebrations are made for wine, especially when you don’t feel like mixing drinks.
We attended the Simply Italian Great Wines Tour stop in New York City last month. This event, which is sponsored by I.E.E.M. (International Event & Exhibition Management) brought together hundreds of different producers and varietals from Italy.
At the event, the Consortium of Friuli Grave DOC Wines sponsored a tasting of wines from the region, including two sparkling Friuli offerings which certainly would be great for a holiday celebration..
Friuli Grave is located North of Venice in an area best known for crisp white wines generally made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and the local Friulano varietal. Almost 70 percent of production is white, with the Friuli Grave DOC producing nearly 5% of the regions’ wine. Out of 56 wineries and 3 co-ops about 20% of the 16 million bottles produced in the region are sparkling wines.
Friuli Grave is a hilly region with alluvial limestone soils that covers the flood plains of several rivers making the soil particularly gravely. The rocky, limestone soil, combined with a climate that is influenced by the cooling winds of both the Alps and the Adriatic Sea leads to wines with a crisp character and good minerality.
We sampled two sparkling wines. The first was Piera Martellozzo 075 Carati Ribolla Gialla Brut (NV: $9.00). This 100% Ribolla wine was a clear light yellow in color. On the nose the wine was super fruity, with apple and pineapple notes. The palate featured sour apple up front and sweeter apple on the finish. It had a nice acid balance and a very light mousse.
This is a good wine for pairing with seafood, and lighter fare. It’s also just a great drinking wine. It would make a great substitute for the ubiquitous Prosecco that shows up at every holiday party. And the price is hard to beat. A great choice for every day or for a celebration.
We also tasted La Delizia Cuvee Brut Jader (NV: $17). This wine is a blend based on the Glera grape (80 percent) with 20% Ribolla Gialla. It is made by a cooperative grower/vintner.
The wine was a clear light yellow color with a nose featuring a nose with some marine notes and some pineapple but dominated by a clean laundry scent. The mousse was very light. The wine was strong in peach notes on the front of the palate, with a mineral finish. It was a fairly complex wine with good minerality and nice acid for pairing.
This is another wine that’s affordable for a holiday celebration or a dinner party to pair with lighter dishes, like chicken and salads, but also a very good party wine. Again, a great substitute for Prosecco with a bit more substance and character.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Vodka which is generally a neutral spirit – not the lead singer, but more of the backup singer in a cocktail. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is produced in the first legal distillery in Austin, Texas is a great backup singer. It is made from corn and distilled six times.
Most liquor types are meant to have a distinctive taste or nose, and sometimes vodkas do as well (e.g. flavored vodkas). But you really don’t want that if you’re mixing something like a martini or another cocktail where the liquor would contaminate the taste. Tito’s is, on the other hand, what a vodka should be – fresh, clean and neutral. Clear in color, Tito’s has a slightly sweet nose, reflecting the fact that it is made from corn, rather than wheat or another grain. The vodka is clean, with a slight sugar flavor on the front of a palate, with a clean, clear finish. This is excellent martini vodka, and is reasonably priced at about $20 per bottle. In fact, we tried Titos on the new Carnival Vista in a pineapple Chipotle martini…we liked it so much,we had two!
This is excellent martini vodka for a cocktail party celebration and fortunately, it’s reasonably priced at about $20 per bottle. Pretty exceptional for a spirit that won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Tito’s makes a great gift for a cocktail lover, and a nice house gift for a holiday party.
For more on Amara Lucano Anniversario Visit http://www.amarolucano.it/en
To learn more about sparkling Friuli Grave visit http://www.docfriuligrave.com/website_eng/consorzio.html
More information on Tito’s Handmade Vodka can be found at: http://www.titosvodka.com/