Have you ever tried South African wines? If not, now is a great time to enlighten your wine experience with some unique wines from this country known for their high quality yet affordable wines, with a rich history in winemaking.
Wine Sales Devastated By Covid-19 Restrictions
A lot has happened in South Africa since our last post about their wine exports resuming after an abrupt ban in March due to Covid-19. National alcohol sales ban has remained in effect, except for a brief period in June, with no end in sight. South Africa is the 8th largest wine producer globally, producing some 974 million liters of wine in 2019, and $1.1 billion worth of revenues in wine exports.
Livelihoods at Stake
Based on Wines of South Africa estimates, $18 million is lost every week in alcohol revenue since the ban, and 1 in 5 wineries may not survive, affecting the livelihoods of some 300,000 wine industry workers and their families. Even before the pandemic, about half of the country live below poverty line. Moreover, hospitality and food and beverage workers are equally devastated, who have been protesting for relaxation of restrictions.
Some good news: about half of South African wines are exported globally, and since exports are still allowed, global support is more important than ever. South Africa is a highly reputable New World region that produces a diverse range of grape varietals, such as red Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) and white Chenin Blanc, and many wine styles worth trying. You can easily find it online or from your local wine shop. Taste, share and spread the word!
Have you seen a champagne or sparkling wine bottle being broken open with a saber? I have not, until I was very lucky to have a chance to try it at Breathless Wines, known for their traditional method (the original method for making Champagne) sparkling wine in Healdsburg when Dr. Thach and our group visited!
What is Sabering?
A saber is a type of sword with a curved blade associated with light cavalry in the early modern and Napoleonic periods. The technique of breaking open a champagne bottle using a saber, called “sabrage”, was popularized after the French Revolution, when Napoleon’s cavalries celebrated their victory by using sabers to open champagne bottles.
For someone who has never held a saber, let alone cut a bottle open with one, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, Breathless has very careful protocols guided by their friendly experts. I was led by Sharon, one of the Founding Sisters of Breathless Wines. The “Saberer” first puts on protective heavy duty gloves and safety goggles. Because of Covid-19, an extra pair of disposable gloves are worn before the heavy duty gloves, and of course I was masked up like everyone else. Also, using a cold bottle makes it easier to break.
Having the correct posture helps to wield power. To start, Sharon demonstrated how to stand sideways, almost like an archer, and hold the body (where the label sits) using my non-dominant hand. Of course, the bottle must be pointed far away from anyone – everyone needed to stand back!
Learning The Technique
Next, Sharon demonstrated the actual technique of holding the saber, and how to strike the bottle. With the saber in hand, the blade sits at an angle to the bottle, and I took a few turns running the blade along the bottle towards the lip, which is the breakage point.
Finally, the wire cage was taken off as an extra step to make it easier. Shortly after the demo, I was ready. My hand went faster than I was mentally prepared and POP! Went the top. I did not apply much force, and it felt a lot smoother than expected. Indeed, I read later that it is simply the force applied at a fragile point of the bottle – with already much internal pressure – that breaks it. Some wine was lost, but I held it up in victory, still shocked at what happened just seconds ago. I was relieved no one was hurt!
Serving the Wine
What good is opening a wine if you can’t enjoy it? After sabering, make sure to check for shards before serving. We all got to enjoy a fresh glass afterwards!
Breathless Wines awards every Saberer with a “Certificate of Completion”, and the cork sealed with their signature Breathless label. I am really grateful for such an unforgettable experience, and hope to lose less wine next time!
Hurray! It is National Prosecco Week – a perfect reason to run to the store and buy a bottle or more of Prosecco. As you probably know, true Prosecco is only made in Northern Italy from the Glera grape. It is light, fruity and bubbly – a perfect drink before dinner, or many other occasions. When you shop for Prosecco make sure to look for the Prosecco DOC symbol to insure you are buying a true Prosecco approved by the Consorzio di Tutela – the Italian organization that monitors production.
So Many Prosecco Cocktail Recipes
The other great thing about Prosecco is it is perfect to use to make delicious and beautiful cocktails. The Consorzio di Tutela provides some excellent Prosecco Cocktail recipes on their website at this link. Following are a few that are very fun to try.
Directions: Serve in large Prosecco glasses. This cocktail is built directly in the glasses. Fill the glass with ice cubes and place the dried pear garnish inside. Pour the Vodka, Crème de Poire, lemon juice and Angostura bitters and mix with a stirrer. Finish by topping off with Prosecco DOC and stir gently to avoid losing all the lovely bubbles.
Directions: Pour the Prosecco DOC, elderberry syrup and soda straight into a flared white wine glass with plenty of ice. Top with the mint leaves and stir gently with a bar spoon. Serve with a slice of lime.
Prosecco Fruit Bowl
1 glass (5 ounces) PROSECCO DOC
Mixed fruit cut into bite-size pieces (strawberries, cantaloupe, melon, peaches, etc.)
Directions: This recipe is courtesy of Brooke Sabel, a Master Teacher for Prosecco. Brook describes one of her favorite Prosecco recipes for brunch or dessert. Simply cut up some of your favorite types of fruit into bite size pieces. Toss in a bowl with a glass of Prosecco. Yum!
(Contributed by Melanie Sanchez) My favorite winery experienced happened at Quatro Quatros Winery in Ensenada, Mexico. “Quatro Quantros” means “four fours” in English, and refers to the 144 acres on which this winery is located. It also includes a hotel with 19 cabanas, spa and restaurant. What is very exciting about this winery is its location on a hill overlooking the ocean. Also, it is only 80 miles south of San Diego, so you can cross the border and visit for the day.
Ocean View, Vineyards, and Cabanas at Cuatro Cuatros Winery
My family and I drove down from San Diego to celebrate my birthday. They knew I loved wine and so they chose the perfect spot for my birthday celebration. It was my first ever winery tasting experience, and I was pleased that it was a warm spring day with a refreshing ocean breeze. When we arrived, we parked in a lower parking lot, and then were transported by 4×4 off-road vehicles to the mountaintop winery with an incredible view overlooking the Pacific ocean.
Wine Tasting on an Ocean View Hilltop
The winery used an open outdoor rustic concept with stacks of hay covered with table cloths serving as tables and chairs. It was functional and comfortable outdoor furniture, but they also had stylish wood tables if you didn’t care for hay furniture. It was so simple yet still very sophisticated.
Once we settled around our hay table, the server welcomed us warmly and recommended the 2013 Quatro Quatros Cabernet Sauvignon. We purchased this along with a cheese, meat and nut platter, which paired nicely with the red wine, tasting of semi-sweet red and black cherries. The server was very experienced and explained about all of the grape varietals grown on the estate. Altogether, they have 40 acres of vineyards, with 82% red grapes and 18% white grapes.
The whole experience was very memorable for me not only because the location and ambiance, but because of the excellent customer service where we learned so much about the wines and estate. The ocean view was the cherry on top. I feel so thankful that I got to have this special moment that I will always remember in one of the most beautiful wineries in Baja, Mexico.
Paso Robles winery Robert Hall is hosting a virtual music concert series, Robert Hall At Home Sessions, live-streaming indie musicians directly from their homes starting this Wednesday July 22. After each concert, the audience will have a special chance to peek behind the scenes and learn directly from the artists about their journeys, personal stories and more.
First Up: Roots Rock Duo, Larkin Poe
A different artist will be revealed before each session. This four-session series kicks off with Grammy nominated Larkin Poe, a roots rock sister duo Rebecca and Megan Lovell based in Nashville. Their latest LP, “Self Made Man,” is a tribute to their journey as artists from constant touring to producing their own music.
“The Good Life. Well Earned”
The chosen artists reflect Founder Robert Hall’s philosophy and the company’s tagline, “The Good Life. Well Earned”: endless dedication to producing the highest quality results, from every bottle to music for all to enjoy. Unwind, sip and enjoy the rest of the summer with great wine, beautiful music, and feel the community spirit virtually!
Four Sessions Starting July 22 at 5pm PST
Robert Hall At Home Sessions is live on Facebook starting July 22 at 5pm PST on the winery’s Facebook page @roberthallwinery. Future Robert Hall At Home Sessions will be streamed on August 5, August 19, and September 2 with new artists announced the week before each show. To receive updates on the line-up and see exclusive interviews with the artists, head to www.roberthallwinery.com/At-Home-Sessions.
Considered to be a very ancient grape, Colombana Bianca is a white grape from Tuscany, also known by the names “Colombana Peccioli and Verdea.” Legend states it was brought to Italy by an Irish missionary called St. Columban. He travelled throughout Europe, and gathered many followers who brought vine cuttings to northern Italy. They planted the vine and began to make wine near the towns of Pisa and Milan, but over the centuries the Colombana vines were replaced by other varieties, so it became very rare and was thought to have nearly disappeared.
Rediscovery of Lost Colombana Vines in Vineyard
Recently the Cantoni family, who own Fattoria Fibbiano Winery south of Pisa, Italy, rediscovered some lost Colombana grape vines growing in their vineyard. Upon analysis, they realized they were identical to those cultivated in Lombardy, Italy, under the name of the Verdea grape. They were excited by this discovery, because in the past, wine made from the Colombana grape in that region was known for its therapeutic properties.
What Does Colombana Taste Like?
Because the grape is so rare, Fattoria Fibbiano decided to craft a new wine made with 100% Colombana grapes. The wine has a brilliant straw yellow color, with rich notes of exotic fruits, such as banana, pineapple, and papaya, with a nose of pressed flowers. It has a notable tanginess from marine soils, with rich acidity that makes it refreshing and deliciously easy to drink.
Crafting Colombana Wine
This 100% Colombana wine is produced with cold maceration on the skins at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in stainless steel tanks for 5 days, after which skins are pressed and the must obtained is fermented at a controlled temperature of 54F without using selected yeasts, bringing greater character to preserve authentic qualities of this variety of noble origins. After fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred into concrete tanks, where it rests for 4 months before bottling.
Where to Purchase Fattoria Fibbiano Colombana
Due to the rarity of the Colombana grape, Fattoria Fibbiano winery, was only able to produce only 3,000 bottles of wine. It was released in June 2020, and will be available in select wine shops in the US in the near future.
They are everywhere: from Trader Joe’s to online stores, pop-up bars to your friend’s party. Since Sofia Coppola’s pretty pink cans of blanc de blanc sparkling debuted in 2004, canned wines have exploded especially in the past few years. According to Nielsen, canned wine sales grew 69% year-on-year in 2018, and 79% in 2019. The variety is now diversified to seltzers, wine coolers offering “zero sugar” and “lower alcohol” options, even sake and more.
The Case for Canned
Although canned wines often have no vintage, specific AVA or vineyard, and are not meant to age like fine wines, they are a great choice for many: it’s portable, chills faster, one can try something new without buying a whole bottle. Cans protect wines from oxygen and light, and a thin layer of plastic inside prevents imparting metallic flavors, which keeps white, rose and sparkling wines surprisingly well. Finally, they’re environmentally-friendly: aluminium cans are often recycled, and lighter weight means less carbon footprint during transport.
And contrary to what some critics say, it’s not just cheap wines that get put into cans – reputable vintners have been canning their wines too. That includes Sommelier and Wine Director of NoMad New York, Thomas Pastuszak, who started Vinny using exclusive Finger Lakes grapes, and ex-Sommelier Gina Schober of Sans Wine, who makes premium organic canned wines.
My Positive Experiences with Drinking Canned Wines
My first canned wine was the much-hyped BABE rose, which I had seen across social media, and was excited to buy a pack at Vinexpo in Hong Kong 2017. Since then, I have tried canned Prosecco, Rose and Pinot Noir. I was very curious to find a canned Pet Nat from Nova Scotia, which is normally made by bottling before end of fermentation to preserve wild yeast and create light sparkling. Fermenting in a can is quite a feat! I’m also keen to try urban warehouse winery Infinite Monkey Theorem, who sources grapes from western Colorado and High Plains of Texas, and they’re available at my local BevMo.
Sizes of Cans and Drinking Tips
Canned wines come in a range of sizes, usually: 250ml, equal to 1/3 of a standard wine bottle, or 1.6 standard glasses; 375ml, roughly 2.5 glasses; 500ml, about 3.33 glasses. Just remember to share and drink responsibly, and finally, canned winemakers have noted a difference when you pour it in a glass, even if it’s plastic. Try for yourself!
(Contributed by Avery Shive) I’ll never forget my first visit to Soda Rock Winery, located in Sonoma County outside the town of Healdsburg. My mother, two sisters and I had planned a glamorous girls weekend visiting top tier wineries in California Wine Country towards the end of November 2019. Our goal was to have fun, but to also support the wineries by visiting after the devastating fires that swept Sonoma County in October.
Wildfires Rage Over Soda Rock Winery
When we heard about the affect the fires had on Soda Rock Winery, we planned on visiting to merely show our support but once we arrived, this winery became so much more than that. Upon arrival we saw that the historic winery, originally established in the 1880s, was almost burnt to the ground from the fires, but still parts of it had survived. The firefighters had managed to salvage some of the main rock wall, the barn, and the grapevines in the back of the winery. Following is a news video depicting the fire at Soda Rock:
A Humble Tasting Room in a Barn with Impeccable Service
When discovered that Soda Rock employees had set up a tasting room in a humble barn with a dirt floor. But from the ceiling there was a grand chandelier covered in crystals hanging over the tables and chairs which overlooked the vineyard. The service at the winery was impeccable, and we were given free tastes of as many wines as they had. I remember falling in love with a crisp chardonnay and a flavorful pinot noir. We were excited to purchase several bottles of wine to take home with us.
This experience was so memorable for me, because it was shortly after Soda Rock was nearly destroyed by the fires. However, not only did they continue to stay open, but all of the tasting room employees had smiles on their faces and were giving out discounts and free tastings. I was so inspired by the large number of people gathered to support such a historic winery, plus the positive and hopeful feeling in the air. It was a very beautiful wine experience, and I will always remember it.
Soda Rock Winery Reopens After COVID Shut-Down
Even though Soda Rock winery was able to reopen after the devastating October wildfires of 2019, it was forced to shut down its tasting rooms in March of 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. However, this winery seems destined to rise from the ashes, because, in June 2020, it was able to re-open its tasting room in the vineyards outside the humble barn.
Currently they are offering a by appointment only tasting at a 6-foot segregated tables overlooking the vineyards. It includes 5 wines and a picnic lunch box prepared by Coyote Sonoma Chef Christopher for only $40 per person. For more information and/or to reserve a table, click HERE.
Just in time for summer, New Jersey-based Royal Wine Corp. is releasing one of America’s most popular Italian-imported Moscatos, Bartenura, in a new format of 8.5 ounce cans – about 1.7 glasses per can – in packs of 4. Bartenura was one of the first premium Moscatos in the U.S, with continuing growth every year since it was introduced in 1980s.
Refreshing Summer Drink
With a refreshing with a hint of sweetness, slightly effervescent and relatively lower alcohol content of 5% ACV, Bartenura is a perfect summer drink. Royal Corp has been trying to find alternative packaging formats for Bartenura while ensuring the signature aroma, quality, flavour and bubble is maintained. Consumers can now bring Bartenura cans to the pool, picnics, barbecues! Bartenura cans will be rolling out nationwide, and consumers can expect to see them in stores with a standard retail price of $15/4pack.
About Royal Wine
The history of Royal Wine Corp. began in the early 19th century in the town of Vrbové in Slovakia. There, the Herzog family crafted wines of royal acclaim for over 150 years, with each of six generations passing their legacy down to the next. In 1948, Eugene Herzog, the head of the Herzog family at the time, moved his family and settled on New York City, and in 1958, after working his way up the company purchased with his four sons Royal Wine Corp.
Today, Royal Wine’s portfolio of domestic and international wines range from traditional wine producing regions of France, Italy, and Spain, as well as Israel, New Zealand, and Argentina. Additionally, Royal Wine Corp.’s spirit and liqueur portfolio offer some of the most sought-after scotches, bourbons, tequilas and vodkas as well as hard to find specialty items such as flavored brandies and liqueurs. The company owns and operates the Kedem Winery in upstate New York, as well as Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, California, a state-of-the-art-facility that also features the award-winning restaurant Tierra Sur, serving the finest, Mediterranean-inspired, contemporary Californian Cuisine. @RoyalWineCorp; royalwine.com.
Pritchard Hill winery, BRAND Napa Valley is running a giveback program, #FromBRANDwithLove for customers and Covid-19 first responders around the nation. Sharing the gift of wine, the “BRAND Care Package” is essentially a buy-1-get-1 for customers to spread the love with a distinguished bottle of wine and send another to a first responder as a token of appreciation for their selfless service.
BRAND Care Package
With the purchase of a $150 “BRAND Care Package”, worth $300 in value, customers receive a bottle of the prestigious 2016 BRAND Napa Valley BRIO Red Blend—an estate produced Bordeaux-style Red Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot—for the customer and for a first responder of their choice, who will receive an identical bottle at no cost to them. Customers can purchase the “BRAND Care Package” online, nominate their first responder, include a personalized note, provide shipping information.