Tag Archives: sparkling wine

Sparkling Sidecar

Well it’s my last post of 2010! Hard to believe a new year will begin in a few hours. It’s been quite a year for most of us and we’ve made it. Let’s hope that everyone has a wonderful, safe, healthy and prosperous New Year in 2011! Just be careful tonight if any of you are venturing outside into the ice and snow. Even if you are in warmer climates like I am please be careful and responsible if you go out tonight! I don’t want to lose any readers!! Enjoy and be merry but be safe!

So who isn’t going to be drinking champagne tonight? I know I will be sharing a bottle or two with my husband. Probably while in the hot tub! But try something a little different with this recipe. It sounded really cool and it’s got champagne in it! So how bad can it be! As someone once told us, don’t just have Champagne for the special occasions! Champagne is for every day of your life so drink it whenever you want! We do! So now on to the recipe so you can all go get any last-minute items you need and get ready to celebrate! I will be back next year! (Ha! corny I know!) And if cognac is not your thing try adding a little Chambord to your glass instead! Very tasty and festive!

Look how pretty this is!


2 ounces orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)

1 ounces Cognac

8 ounces chilled Cava (Spanish Sparkling Wine) If you can’t find Cava use any champagne or sparkling wine.

Lemon twist for garnish

Pour the orange liqueur and Cognac into 2 champagne glasses or flutes equally. Top with the Cava and squeeze the lemon twist over the glass and drop it in.

Makes 2 drinks. Adjust as needed!

Lemon Grotto

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! I found this cocktail in the February 2010 issue of Coastal Living. (love that magazine!) We’ve made it a few times for us and friends. Needless to say it packs quite a punch. It looks so unassuming and innocent! The power in this cocktail is of course Limoncello, which if you remember has a whopping 26% alcohol in it. So along with the other ingredients it is over the top incredible! It does take some prep time so make sure you leave enough time to prepare it for yourselves or guests. You can serve this in tall glasses or champagne flutes or martini glasses. Whichever you have around. So before summer is gone, make a batch and sip and relax! We actually made these last on Valentine’s Day! Brought a batch over to our friends house and sipped them by the fire. Yes, in Florida! Lori and Mike have a beautiful house in Jensen Beach which has a great fireplace so we hung with them for a few hours and enjoyed the day. The drinks should have a slight frothy top if served immediately after blending. But since we had made these ‘to go’, they lost the head. (I hear you all laughing!) The 2nd picture is from the magazine.


6 ounces (¾ cup) limoncello

2 ounces (¼ cup) orange liqueur (Grand Mariner)

8 large strawberries, sliced

Prosecco or other sparkling wine


1. Combine the limoncello and orange liqueur in a small bowl. Stir in the strawberries and soak at least one hour. (We did this overnight!)

2. After the berries have soaked, purée the mixture in a blender. Strain if desired. (We tried both ways. Strained is a little better, no seeds etc)

3. Pour into 4  glasses. Top with Prosecco or sparkling wine. Serve immediately!

Makes 4 drinks!

See what happens when you drink a couple in front of a cozy fire!

Italy’s Sparkling Wines

As I have mentioned before I really like Italian Prosecco as far as sparkling wines go. But Italy has more than just Prosecco. Most people don’t realize that Italy actually produces more different types of sparkling wines than any other country in the world! No joke! They have been producing spumantes (sparkling wines) since Roman times! This was way before Dom Perignon discovered champagne in France! I am going to cover the basic sparkling wines Italy is proud of. There is Prosecco, Franciacorta, Asti, Moscato D’Asti and Bracchetto. Italian sparkling wines are usually less expensive than the French and California varieties.They are perfect anytime so put aside those memories of the 1970s and those really campy Asti Spumante commercials and try Italian sparkling wine again, for the first time! I will always choose a Prosecco over a Champagne for sure!

Almost all of Italy’s sparkling wines are produced in the cooler, northern regions of Italy. The regions of Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy are the primary regions. As I mentioned in another post the method to making Italian sparkling wines is called Charmat which is very unlike the Champagne method . This method has the second fermentation being done in a tank instead of in the bottles. This results in a wine that is bottled much younger. This also means they should be consumed when young and not saved for a special occasion years later. I believe you should drink sparkling wine as you would any wine, whenever you want! Don’t save for a special occasion, drink it now! So everyday is a celebration that way!

PROSECCO: This light sparkling wine from the Veneto region of northern Italy is made for summer drinking. Which is why I have it all the time here in Florida! It’s summer almost all year! Prosecco is light, refreshing and can have slight hints of melon, pear and almonds. I have actually had a sparkling almond wine. It was delicious. It tasted like sparkling amaretto! Prosecco is made from a grape of the same name and is excellent with calamari, pasta, or salad. But if you ask me, it’s excellent with everything or just by itself! Traditionally, Prosecco is an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine, but there are many that are dry and crisp. If you like a more dry sparkling wine look for the labels that say “brut”. If you remember from my past posts you will know that Prosecco is the star of the Bellini cocktail which is made from fresh white peach juice/nectar, which was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy!

Prosecco Grapes

FRANCIACORTA: This is Italy’s sparkling wine star. Unlike other sparkling wines, Franciacorta is made using the Champagne method. It’s fermented in the bottles which need to be rotated every day. This leads to smaller, more abundant bubbles and a more subtle taste. Franciacorta is a name of a place, a region in the Lombardy Lake District. This wine is made from a variety of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). It is usually a dry wine with hints of vanilla, almonds and yellow ripe fruit. It is a much stricter process of aging as well. Italian Wine Law says that it must be aged for at least 18 months and vintage Franciacorta for 30 months! That is a long time for aging! Franciacortas are great with risotto, seafood, white meat and baked fish.

Chardonnay Grapes

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Bianco Grapes

ASTI: I remember the days as a kid hearing all those commercials for Asti. It used to be called Asti Spumante but now it’s just Asti. Remember Asti Spumante, that’s nice? It was once a popular sweet wine for those college days of drinking inexpensively! Asti now produces a large number of excellent sparkling wines. Asti is also a place name, a lovely town, set in the gentle rolling hills of Piedmont, in northern Italy of course! The rugged, limestone soil in this region is ideal for growing grapes. Grapes don’t seem to do well in “perfect” soil! Who knew? Other than the usual Asti sparkling wine Asti also produces the light and crisp Moscato d’Asti as well as a red sparkling wine called Brachetto. Asti is usually a light, slightly off-dry wine with hints of peach and is made from 100% Moscato (Muscat grapes). It is very high in acidity and this helps to balance out its sweetness. Asti is a non-vintage wine, which means it doesn’t have a year on the bottle and is best to drink within 1-3 years from when it’s bottled. If you are buying a bottle I wouldn’t buy the one that is all dusty on the shelf. Most likely it’s been there way too long and will not be any good. Asti is great with gorgonzola cheese (also from the Piedmont region) and by itself as a before dinner drink!

Moscato Grapes

MOSCATI D’ASTI: Moscati d’Asti is also made from the Moscato grapes. It is technically what they call a fizzante, which is a fizzy or lightly sparkling wine. Moscato d’Asti has less bubbles than Asti does. It is light and crisp and actually pretty low in alcohol, about 5%-7%! It’s best to drink this with the traditional Italian wafer, biscotti or in the summer with a nice crisp salad! In Piedmont, Italy it’s tradition to drink a glass in celebration on Christmas Day! Nice!

BRACHETTO: This is a lesser known sparkling wine because it’s a ruby-red sparkling wine! Very pretty! It’s made from the Brachetto grapes. This wine is festive and light and ready for a party! The hints of strawberry and cherry are subtle and it’s excellent when consumed with fruit and cheese or a light dessert! A cannoli perhaps? I hear it’s even great with pizza! So try and find some of this and see how you like it! I am definitely going to try and find this as I’ve never had it before. Sounds like another good sparkler for summertime!

Brachetto Grapes

Italian Summer Wine Trilogy

Summer is officially here tomorrow. But for most of us it’s been here for weeks already. Especially in Florida. And when the heat of the summer takes over and everyone is enjoying outdoor parties, barbecues, deck parties etc. the last thing we want is a heavy wine. Which many Italian wines can be. But Italy also produces many varieties of lighter more refreshing wines which are perfect for a hot summer day on the veranda! I have only listed three wines which I think are best for the summertime. There are a couple other wines that are less known here in the U.S. and they are pretty hard to find so I will not list them. If I had to choose one of these three over the others, my vote is for Prosecco. Riondo Prosecco is our favorite.

Riondo Prosecco

PROSECCO: My favorite Italian wine for any season is actually a sparkling wine, Prosecco. Prosecco should be on everyone’s summer wine list, in my opinion. It’s made for the most part from the Prosecco grape which grows in the northern Veneto region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps. Sometimes the Prosecco grapes are mixed with a small amount of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc grapes as well. Prosecco is made using the Charmat method rather than the Champagne method that the French use. The Charmat method lets the wine go through the second fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in the bottles like champagne is done. No turning the bottles everyday like champagne. This method preserves the freshness and flavor of the Prosecco grapes!

Prosecco Grapes

Prosecco is usually very affordable, light and fun. Much easier on the wallet and palate than Champagne. The fizz in Prosecco is not overwhelming, it’s just right. It is usually dry with citrus (lemon and grapefruit) overtones and just a hint of honey. Did I mention I love Prosecco? You can serve it with pastas with light sauces, fish, seafood, salads etc. Pretty much everything goes with Prosecco if you ask me and John! It should be served well chilled! It’s best to serve Prosecco within 3 years of its vintage date but the higher quality ones can be aged up to seven years! Not in my house! We’re lucky if a bottle lasts a few days before we open it and drink it! The Venetians say Prosecco is an ideal appertivo or ombrette (pick-me-up). Remember you can also add fresh peach nectar to it and make…Bellinis!!! There are many brands on the market in all price ranges from $7+ usually. We have many favorites in all price ranges.

Pinot Grigio Grapes

PINOT GRIGIO: Pinot Grigio is one of the best known Italian white wines. It’s a light, dry wine with an almost lemony flavor with slightly nutty overtones. The Pinot Grigio grapes are also grown in the Veneto region (like Prosecco) as well as the Fruili region, both in northeastern Italy. Pinot Grigio is usually pale in color, almost straw-like and it’s best to drink it close to its vintage year. It’s not a wine you want to age. It’s best served with seafood, light pastas and cheese. I would stay away from acidic dishes such as vinegar-based salad dressing and citrus-based sauces. It’s not a good combo. It’s a great wine to have before dinner. In the United States Pinot Grigio is usually a summer favorite. It’s another wine that is very reasonable in price. You can get a good bottle for as low as $5 or $6 and of course the prices can get much higher.

Trebbiano Grapes

SOAVE: Soave is another well-known Italian white wine here in the United States. When I hear Soave I usually immediately think of Soave Bolla. The Bolla vineyards have made Soave a household name here. Soave is a light, crisp wine. It’s made from the Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes that again grown in the Veneto region in northeastern Italy.  I’m sensing a trend here. Soave is produced as a still wine as well as sparkling or sweet wine as well. Most of the imported Soave we get here in the U.S. is the still variety. Soave usually has a slightly green color with very distinct perfume-like tones. It goes great with light pastas, salads or fish. Or just drink it on its own while sitting on the patio relaxing after a long hard day! I tend to favor the Soave over the Pinot Grigio myself.  It’s a little more fruity than the Pinot Grigio which is why I like it. Soave gets its name from a small town nestled among the vine-covered hills in the shadow of a handsome and well-preserved castle. Pretty cool! It is also a wine that should not be aged. Drink it no more than three years from its vintage year.

Garganega Grapes

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