Celebrate Valentine's Day with these pink bubbles
Bring on the pink bubble with the strawbs in it—now’s the time to celebrate.
Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused with Strawberries n/v ($15.95; also in 200 millilitres minis for $4.99)
Billed as the “original blend of Chilean sparkling wine with ‘hand-picked’ strawberries” this seemingly curious combo of white bubbly and fresh berries continues to surprise and delight all those who venture near: it really shouldn’t be as good as it is, now should it? It’s just the thing for a leisurely post-Valentine’s Day Valentine’s dinner. Now, I can’t tell you the names of any restaurants that carry it so you may have to orchestrate the dinner at your place. Since Fresita first showed up on these shores it has been my frequent recommendation when people ask for something “special” for a wedding party or other joyful event, especially if it’s going to be out of doors.
The word—fresita—is simply “strawberry” in Spanish and few people know that these modern delectables are a hybridized version of beach strawberries, which were originally discovered in Patagonia and eventually introduced (around 1714) to the rest of the world by one Amédée-François Frézier. His place in the foodie pantheon is secure based on this lucky find.
Chill the bottle, twist the wire, pop the cork—there’s that satisfying sound—and within seconds the room fills with the smell of fresh strawbs. Pour it and it starts with a bright, true, non-faked strawberry colour and copious bubbles. It tastes like strawberries out of a sunny field, from the first sip and for a long time after; there’s a lingering perle dancing about in the glass. The finish is fresh and refreshing, not too sweet, crisp and bright and full-flavoured. The wine is simply delicious, which I know is not an officially sanctioned wine-tasting term but it sure fits the bill: it’s so-o-o-o- good (how good is it, really?) I may have to start a campaign to get it loaded into the water cooler down the hall.
Pair it with strawberry shortcake (and cream, naturally) and you have a spring-well-into-summer anytime dessert. “A scary thing,” say some friends around the table as we slurp and swirl and forget all about making notes. “You could easily down a bottle of this.” Could, too, ’cause it’s only eight percent alcohol. If you’re not ready to take my word for it (have I ever steered you wrong before?), start with one of those 200 millilitres minis. You’ll be running back to the store for replenishments before they close.
Now, if it could cost 10 bucks, it’d leave a vapour trail flying off the shelves. As it is, at 16, it ambles.
Another thing for it, with it: apple-and-pear deep-dish pie with frozen vanilla yogurt on top. Or anything sweet: cold cherry soup, baked black plums with pomegranate jelly, fruit cobbler, pineapple upside-down cake, sticky toffee pudding; your call. Make it part of your welcome-spring celebrations.
Casolari Lambrusco di Sorbara Vino Frizzante Secco n/v ($14.99)
For the first time in B.C., they say, “the favourite wine of Luciano Pavarotti”. There are over 60 sub-varieties of the widely grown Italian grape. This is one of them, and one of only four in the whole country exalted to the DOC status. A red sparkler, this newcomer to our scene is something of an acquired taste; maybe you have to be able to toss off high Cs to really get it. You figure it’s going to be sweet but it’s hearty and quite robust—would do a plate of prosciutto proud and, given its origin is Modena, balsamico won’t hurt it, either. Shy nose, loud purple colour (watch the white tablecloth!), and unusual fruit, mostly aftertaste. It coats the palate and definitely wants food—steak, ribs, or shepherds’ pie made with good ground lamb and fresh green peas.
Forbidden Fruit Cherysh Cherry Rose (Fruit Wine) 2010 ($19.95)
From the endlessly enterprising, always surprising Similkameen Valley winery comes this pleaser (you’ve gotta like cherries!) made from the fat and fabulous Stella cherries, announcing its presence in the glass with a bright-pink-neon hue and pleasing plenty of palates, enough to have copped a gold at the All-Canadian Wine Championships. The winemaker likes it with seafood and spicy dishes or as an aperitif. It’s shy on the nose at first whiff, then opens up, dry and fruity and unique with an ever so slightly medicinal edge. Having just finished reading the latest Carl Hiaasen novel (Star Island), the name caused me a fit of the giggles giving way to hiccups every time I beheld the label. (You’ll have to read it; it’s just out in paperback.)
Some new organic wines/vintages have hit town from Chile’s well-priced, much-appreciated Cono Sur label. Got one each, red and white, for your enjoyment today. The white first, being Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay 2011 ($14.49, specialty listing). I can recall when this first arrived, labelled “transitioning to organic”. Now the transition is apparently complete, and here’s the end result: fresh and lively, full in the mouth with a nice, fresh citrus nose; a little flowery but in no way cloying, lovely and clean and rich. I can also recall when this wine cost four or five bucks less, but c’est la vie and all that…
The red is an Organic Pinot Noir 2010 (also specialty listed, for four bits more, at $14.99). Very light, very Beaujolais-ish: violets on the nose, just right for delicate foods—chicken pot pie, tilapia, crusted halibut, cream-sauced salmon, oil-poached tuna, cream-sauced pasta, vegetable quiche, and suchlike. Both are currently on the ever-expanding Chilean wine shelf in the LDB’s best stores. Look for the bicycle logo on the label, an indication of new vintages of organic wines from Cono Sur.
Averna Amaro ($36.99, 700 millilitres, speculative listing)
A new version of Italy’s well-known and multitudinous Amaro (or bitters), this is the kind that will appeal to the Jägermeister crowd. (Those of us who love our bitters for the digestive/medicinal qualities will pass it by in favour of Cynar or Fernet-Branca.) But your favourite bartender may even now be building a cocktail with it, so ask. This one comes from Sicily and is named for its inventor, Salvatore Averna. It’s lighter than most (29 percent alcohol) and softens the blow to the gut with an agreeable sweetness. Wine Enthusiast magazine fell all over it (93 points) so give it a try. This is definitely a case for having mini bottles on sale: 40 bucks is steep for 700 millilitres. Maybe someone can make that happen.