The Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Sparkling Strawberry Summer Sangria

This Sparkling Strawberry Summer Sangria stars everybody's favorite berry, apricots and brachetto, the sweet-tart red sparkling wine from Italy that tastes of roses, currants and raspberries.

Summer is almost upon us, so I figured it was time to start concocting one of my favorite styles of summer drinks: sangria.

Sangria, which takes its name from the Spanish word for blood, is usually a mix of red wine, fruit, spirits and a little spice.  But really, any inexpensive wine – red, white, or bubbly – can be the start of  delicious sangria, as I learned while travelling through Spain’s cava sparkling wine region. Gareth of Mont Marçal Cava shared his Spanish sangria recipe that works equally well with red or white wine.

They can be made year-round with whatever fruit you have on hand, but to me sangrias are most delicious in summer, when they showcase fleeting gems like apricots, white cherries and ripe berries. One of my favorite sangria recipes ever is this Apricot & White Cherry Sangria I created a couple seasons ago.

Best of all, if you’re hosting a party, sangrias are crowd-pleasers – even people who claim not to like sweet drinks will be back for another fruity glass. The trick is achieving a balance between the sweet, tart and spirited elements in your mix.

Last weekend I discovered a bargain bottle of brachetto, a sweet-tart sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy at a store called Grocery Outlet. Priced at just $7.99 this wine bursting with aromas and flavors of raspberries, strawberries and roses begged to be mixed with fruits in a sangria. So I gave in.

Sparkling Summer Strawberry Sangria

1 cup Limoncello liqueur

1 cup apricot liqueur

1 cup fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

4 ripe apricots, cut in slivers

4 key limes, thinly slices

¼ cup lime juice

1 bottle brachetto Italian sparkling wine, chilled

1/2 bottle peach sparkling cider

3 shakes orange bitters

whole strawberries, for garnish

If you’re starting your sangria a few hours or the night before you plan to serve it, combine the Limoncello, apricot liqueur, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, limes , and lime juice in a glass pitcher. Just before serving, add the chilled brachetto and the sparkling cider.  Garnish the glasses with a whole strawberry.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

 

By Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl

 

Real champagne for $20? Mais oui if you know where to shop

Champagne Didier Chopin, a real brut rosé from the Champagne region of France, was one of the bargains I found at Grocery Outlet in Oakland this weekend.

For the past few weeks, a new friend has been telling me about the wine bargains he finds at a placed called Grocery Outlet. Actually, he calls it Gross Out, so  can’t say I had been in a hurry to get over there. But when he brought a couple white wines to dinner that were surprisingly good, my curiosity got the best of me.

It looks like a bodega outside, with bins piled high with oranges and mini watermelons. Inside, racks are piled equally high with everything from toilet paper and toothpaste to flower pots. I snagged some organic baby green mix in the produce section, then went to track down the wine. Along the way I noticed a very extensive cheese section, where a woman explained to her friend what “ricotta salata” was.

On the display opposite the cheese, I spotted my first wines. I picked up an Italian one in a familiar berry shade of magenta. The label said Casorzo D.O.C. Ricossa Antica Casa.  The description on the back read: “a semi-sweet sparkling frizzante style wine of fragrant floral aromas with hints of rose petal and a soft smooth taste.”

That description told me I had found a wine that contained some brachetto, the red grape from Piedmont typically made into sweetly balanced sparklers with distinctive rose and berry aromas and flavors. A wine with word brachetto on the label will usually run $18 to $22. Grocery Outlet was selling it for $7.99 – perfect for making sangria.

There's some brachetto blended into this Italian dessert wine that was just $7.99.

In the wine aisle, I spotted all kinds of wine, mostly unfamiliar. Many of the wines were blends, such as the Spanish white Pazo de Monterey that my friend had brought to dinner. It was marked $2.99 here, but drank much better. A Google search revealed that the blend of treixadura and godello grapes that had soft apple and floral aromas sells for $9 to $12 around the country.

But in the refrigerated wine case, I found the real bargains. Among a bunch of half bottles of botryitized semillon from Australia – a super bargain at $9.99 -  I spotted a few bottles of rosé sparkling with the name “Champagne Didier Chopin” and “product of France.” I didn’t know this wine either, but that doesn’t mean much since there are hundreds of smaller producers in Champagne that never make a name in the US.

I Googled the name from my phone and learned that Msr. Chopin started making wines in the Vallée de la Marne nearly 20 years ago. His brut rosé sells for around $55 in U.K. He’s a négociant -manipulant, meaning that he buys pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes and then fashions them into wine. We savored this fruity deep pink wine with its bold berry flavors and aromas. Even more delightful was picking it up for $19.99 at Grocery Outlet.

I’ll definitely be going back for more.

 

 

 

Best Discoveries from the Champagne Grand Tasting

The Champagne Grand Tasting by the Champagne Bureau featured more than 32 champagne houses pouring their best bubbly. Â Â Â Â Courtesy Dakota Fine Photography/CIVC

The Grand Champagne Tasting at the Westin St. Francis last week was glorious. Walking into the light-filled room done in gold and crystal on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis was like stepping into champagne heaven.

Around the room that offered a panoramic view of San Francisco on a sunny day, more than 100 different styles of icy champagne rested in silver buckets, just waiting to be tasted.

The first of its kind tasting was presented by the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. office of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), a 70-year-old trade organization. The CIVC’s main mission is making sure the trademarked word champagne isn’t applied to sparkling wines from other places in the world.

“We have to defend this idea that champagne is from Champagne,” said Thibault le Mailloux, the new communications director of the CIVC visiting from France.

One of the best ways to do that is by letting people taste fine champagnes from smaller houses that often don’t get as much attention from consumers.  “We thought this was an opportunity to show the diversity and richness of the Champagne area,” le Mailloux said.

My favorite discovery of the day was the brut rosé by Charles de Cazanove, a lively wine that tasted of wild strawberries. It’s also poured at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen + Bar in NYC’s East Village, so you know it’s gotta be good.

I experienced some other new wines as well:  Champagne Thienot 1999 Grande Cuvée Alain Thienot, a $150 prestige cuvée that offered bread and toasty notes and finished with a surprising youthfulness; and the Champagne Mailly 2000 Grand Cru Les Echansons.  The wine crafted from 75% pinot noir/25% chardonnay had lovely notes of quince jam followed by brioche. Juice from their oldest vines goes into the 11,000 bottles of this cuvée dedicated to sommeliers.  Oh, and the 82-year old Mailly doesn’t use pinot meunier.

But as the ultimate comfort beverage, I think champagne is also about re-experiencing favorite flavors in wines like:

  • Vilmart et Cie’s 2001 Coeur de Cuvée, a delicious rosé that tasted of dried stonefruit and toasted nuts;
  • Bollinger’s 2002 La Grande Année, disgorged just two months ago and tasting richly of dried stonefruit;
  • the juicy and crisp Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvée, an amazing champagne value from the newest house in Champagne – (also love the Aria from La Wally on their website)
  • Pol Roger‘s NV Brut, a wine with a remarkable balance of freshness, delicacy and age;
  • Philipponnat’s 2004 Grand Blanc bursting with apricot flavors poured by Msr. Philipponnat himself and
  • Devaux’s Cuvée D with its delicate flavors of mushroom and subtle fruit.