Hey folks, how has your January been? Yeah, mine also. Nothing makes me see the silver lining like bubbles! We toasted the Lunar New Year with some pals at a Mad Hatter Tea Party, replete with thoughtful tea pairings and silly hats required. It seemed the right time to indulge in some sparkling wine, and renew once more, our commitment to make The Year of The Rooster as hopeful as ever. So we opened a few very different options from Cinzano*, makers of the famed Italian Vermouth and those vintage art posters adorning colorful kitchens the world over. Saluti!
*this is a review of samples sent to me by Palm Bay International
You can read more on their website, but suffice it to say that Cinzano has been at it for a while. Since 1757 to be exact. Brothers Carlo and Giovanni Cinzano of Turin, Italy made some intoxicating beverages from a secret recipe. Vermouth, an aromatized and fortified wine, is traditionally served as an apéritif, or before dinner drink, to stimulate the appetite. Known initially for Vermouth, Cinzano did begin to foray into sparkling wines as far back as 1840. However one might free associate best with their iconic posters, depicting all manner of debauchery with the family name emblazoned brightly. This marketing ingenuity also began for them ages ago, in 1889, making them a truly unforgettable company.
They still boast an assortment of vermouths and sparkling wines to choose from, at an affordable price. They have fairly wide distribution so accessing their products is not hard. With tradition, options and affordability, why not try them? But how do they taste?! Right! We took that task on and here is some feedback for the Asti and the Prosecco.
A D.O.C.G. Asti
This is a good sign. D.O.C.G. refers to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garatita, which is the highest classification for Italian wines. D.O.C.G. wines are all sealed with a numbered governmental label atop the cork or cap. They have been regulated to ensure quality and authenticity. Asti is in Piedmont, which lies in the northwestern part of the country. Asti is a sparkling white made from the moscato bianco grape, producing a wine that is sweet and low in alcohol.
Cinzano Sparkling Asti
Grapes: 100% Moscato
ABV (alcohol by volume): 7%
Retails for $12-
Tasting notes: Quite sweet, with honey and candied fruit on the palate. The sweetness is tempered by the bubbles which give it a liveliness. Our group thought it would be nice with gin. We all tried it with the lemon dill cream cheese crostini, prepared by our host. Yummy pairing! The lemon was a nice complement to the sugar. So perhaps a lemon, gin and Asti cocktail is in your future? At the very minimum, get yourself a lemony nosh and wash it down with this enchanting Asti.
Onward to the Prosecco!
Most wine drinkers and brunch frequenters are familiar with the Italian sparkling delight called Prosecco. It is bubbly, easy to drink and mix with and can be light on the wallet. This crowd pleaser hails from The Veneto region of Italy, near the city of Treviso, and about 15 miles north of Venice. Due east and a little north from Asti, across the top of the boot. Prosecco is made from a grape of the same name, or you may see the grape labled as Glera. Same grape. And you will note that this is a D.O.C. wine, making it a Denominazione di Origine Controllata, one tier below D.O.C.G. However D.O.C. wines are still subject to rules governing quality and authenticity. Grazie Italia!
Cinzano Sparkling Prosecco
Grapes: 100% Prosecco (Glera)
ABV (alcohol by volume): 11%
Retails for $12-
Tasting notes: Very different from the Asti, the Prosecco has far less residual sugar, making it drier and conjuring almost a granny-smith apple flavor. One sipper compared it to green apple jolly ranchers. It is a most pleasing prosecco, with pear and melon on the palate and dancing bubbles on the finish. Our group thought it might be mixed with pomegranate for a fun cocktail. Do with it what you will, but definitely pick up some for yourself and others.
Asti and Prosecco are made in similar methods by the same name. The Tank Method, Charmat Method, or "Cuve Close" all indicate that a sparkling wine is undergoing its secondary fermentation in a large stainless steel tank, as opposed to the bottle, as it does for Champagne or sparkling wine made in the traditional method. This method is not only cost effective for large production but also preserves some of the freshness and intensity of the aromas which are desired in Asti and Prosecco. The bubbles tend to be light, frothy and less persistent than from sparklings made via the traditional method. Therefore, I say, once you have your glass in hand, drink up!