Wine-beer hybrids push fermentation boundaries and expand consumer choices

Wine-beer hybrids push fermentation boundaries and expand consumer choices

I have always held a strong opinion on wine “faux pas.” Many involve summer heat and optimizing refreshment. Dropping an ice cube into your wine glass, for example, is never OK. Ever. Cocktails made with wine that include ice are a gray area. Mixing beer and wine?

I must say I was intrigued.

The producers of these hybrids are going beyond wine-barrel aged beer and creating a new step in fermenting techniques that actually combines the two brews. Many of these recipes incorporate ingredients such as grape must and wine yeast to create a beverage that is part beer, part wine and uniquely tasty.

This labor-intensive process is not just a fad, Belgian brewers have been making these hybrids since the 1970s. The movement in the United States can be attributed to Dogfish Head Brewery. In the late 1990s the Delaware-based brewery teamed up with biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern to brew a beer-wine-mead hybrid. Midas Touch Ancient Ale is brewed with muscat grapes, barley, honey and saffron. The story goes it was inspired by ingredients found in a 2,700-year-old drinking vessel discovered in the tomb of King Midas.

These hybrids often take a lot of time and attention during production and blending. Most start with a sour ale as the base and the maker then chooses to co-ferment, blend and age these beverages. The crafters will macerate the beer on the fermented wine skins. The aging process can be lengthy with some producers aging the beer for one to two years in wine barrels plus an additional six months in the bottle before releasing to the consumer.

Several U.S. craft brewers now offer brews that bridge the grape-grain divide. The alcohol by volume of these drinks tends to be a bit higher than your average beer, but below most wines. These beer-wine hybrids offer unique beverage options with a variety of styles to appeal to a range of tastes. So, for a summer refresher you have several unique spins, but please, don’t put ice cubs in your wine (or beer).

THE VALUES

  • Dogfish Head Midas Touch Ancient Ale (9% ABV), Delaware (about $14 retail, 4 pack)
  • Pacific Coast Apple Pinot Grigio Hard Cider (6.5% ABV), California (about $14 retail, 4 pack)
  • Rogue Rouge Brut India Pale Ale Pinot Noir Juice (7.5% ABV), Oregon (about $13 retail, 4 pack)
6 Father’s Day gifts for the man who has wine on his mind

6 Father’s Day gifts for the man who has wine on his mind

Father’s Day gifts do not have to be all about the stereotypical ties and socks. If you know your father enjoys wine, why not buy a gift you know he will appreciate?

  • His new favorite bottle. Finding an ideal wine is easy because according to the surveys I consulted nine out of 10 dads love a great bottle of cabernet sauvignon. There’s no need to break the bank here with an exorbitantly priced bottle. There are many great wines for under $40. Stay with regions that have a history of quality bottles such as Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Australia.
  • His “camping” wine glass. No one should have to drink wine from a flimsy plastic cup. New trends in outdoor glassware include insulated tumbler styles and even stainless-steel wine glasses. The one I found with the best reviews was the stainless-steel nesting wine glass. It’s lightweight and stores easily into camping gear without the worry of breakage.
  • Wine Barrel Staves for Grilling. Just as wood influences the wine you drink, grilling staves have a tasty effect on food. The staves are from used red wine barrels and offer a unique fuel to your father’s next grilling adventure.
  • A Wine-Beer Hybrid. If your dad loves beer and wine, this is the drink for him. Several breweries are crossing the grape-grain divide by combining these different but equal beverages with excellent, if not intriguing results. If he enjoys the beer drinking experience but still orders that chilled crisp pinot gris this gift will be a unique taste for exploration.
  • A serious but comical wine book for his library. Master Sommelier Richard Betts took his passion for wine (less the wine-speak) and created a fun scratch-and-sniff way to explore the world of wine. The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert explores the basic components of wine, the fruits, woods, earth and allows the reader to discover the differences in grape varieties. The illustrations bring a humorous approach and put the fun into wine fundamentals.
  • A bottle with a story. An incredible bottle of wine with a great story behind it is always a great gift. I always think of Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Winery as one of those bottles for Father’s Day. It could be that he is an amazing winemaker but also that his business card says, Steve Reynolds, “owner/winemaker/dad.” It was his father being a hobby winemaker that introduced him to the craft early in his life. In 1994, Reynolds left his career as a dentist and with his wife, Suzie, bought a 100-year-old chicken ranch that needed “lots of love” to have potential for fine winemaking. As a tribute to their substantial hardships, the stigma of being a newcomer to Napa Valley, arduous startup politics and other challenges, Reynolds named one of his red blends “Persistence.”
Moscato d’Asti is the wine trifecta

Moscato d’Asti is the wine trifecta

Who doesn’t love anything fizzy, chilled and refreshing?

That trifecta is just one explanation for America’s growing love of Moscato d’Asti.

Home in Italy’s Piedmont region Moscato d’Asti is made from moscato bianco, a grape that’s hundreds of years older than the familiar cabernet sauvignon. When most consumers think of Moscato, they have a disappointing tendency to compare it to its sweeter, easy drinking fizzy cousin, Asti Spumante produced in the same region from the same grape.

Moscato d’Asti offers distinct aromas of lemon, pear, orange and honeysuckle. If the aromas were not refreshing enough the taste seals the deal with a tingle on your tongue from the half-sparkling style (frizzante in Italian) with high acidity and slight carbonation. Another reason to the love this wine is the surprisingly low alcohol level, around 5.5% alcohol by volume. (By comparison, an average bottle of white wine is 12% to 13% alcohol by volume.)

The secret behind this refreshing bottle is in the technique. Fermentation takes place in a stainless-steel tank making it ideal to preserve the natural carbonation. The fermentation is stopped at 5% to 5.5% ABV leaving enough residual sugar to create a pleasantly sweet wine. The process is quite different from other sparkling wines such as Champagne. Unlike Champagne there is not a “secondary fermentation” inside the bottle.

THE VALUE

  • NV Mia Dolcea Moscato d’Asti, Italy (about $12 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Saracco Moscato d’Asti, Italy (about $19 retail)

French wine hard to say, delightful to drink

French wine hard to say, delightful to drink

When I am asked “what is a great French wine to start exploring” most people find it shocking I recommend one of the most difficult to pronounce: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, this French wine appellation is the gateway to all that is beautiful in French wine and everyone deserves to be drinking this gem.

Let’s start with the pronunciation, “shah/toh/nuf dew pahp.”

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a French appellation in the Southern Rhone known for its grenache based red blends. If you are looking at a map, it is just north of Avignon very close to Provence. Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines include about 13 different grapes but don’t worry about memorizing details and just remember grenache because nearly 75% are dedicated to this grape.

The history and growing of this wine are just as intriguing as the wine. The name means, “pope’s new castle.” In 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy to the town of Avignon. It’s said the Pope was a lover of Burgundy wines but at the time the vineyards around Avignon were not even slightly comparable to the legendary wines of Burgundy. John XXII succeeded Clement and was also an admirer of the great wines of France. He did a lot to improve viticulture practices and is famous for building the castle which still stands as a symbol to the appellation.

For me it’s the dedicated viticulture practices giving me the most appreciation when I enjoy a glass from this region. The vineyard soils are layered with stones called galets. The stones are key for the vineyards’ survival. During the day they receive ample sunshine and at night they retain heat and continue to slowly ripen the grapes. The region also has a unique terroir with its intense mistral winds. Because of the intense winds the vines are pruned as bushes to limit damage. These winds also remove moisture from the vines creating a drier climate for the vine growth.

A great bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is bursting with plummy fruit flavors, rich raspberries with a touch of herbs (sage, lavender and rosemary), game and leather. And if all of that were not enough it finishes with a sweet-strawberry taste balanced perfectly with a tannic structure and noticeable alcohol level. Depending on the age and vintage of your bottle it can range from sweet to savory.

So, if you simply practice the phonetics in order to pronounce this wine for buying, I promise it will be your new French favorite.

  • 2015 Telegramme Chateauneuf du Pape, France (about $50 retail)
  • 2015 Mont Redon Chateauneuf du Pape, France (about $65 retail)
Red wines are OK for chilling before grilling

Red wines are OK for chilling before grilling

There is just something about the alluring aromas of the grill and of course anything coated in barbecue sauce.

Often these smoky, spicy and sometimes sweet flavors seem to demand a beer pairing. But cabernet sauvignons and rieslings are just as enjoyable as the cold brew for this barbecue matchup.

Beer’s appeal likely has more to do with serving temperature than flavor profile as it is usually served icy cold.

Many think chilling a red wine is taboo. It’s not. There’s nothing wrong with serving red wine chilled. Keep in mind, I am referring to chilling — not dropping ice cubes into your glass. Many red wines are served too warm even in a restaurant setting and even more at the outdoor grill. Just put your red wines in the refrigerator for a quick chill and don’t leave them sitting out in the sun while you await your grilling perfection. Some of the wines ideal for chilling are Beaujolais (gamay), pinot noir and barbera.

THE VALUE

  • 2017 Louis Tete Beaujolais Villages, France (about $13 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2017 Adelsheim Oregon Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $29 retail)

Most of us don’t consider white wines as a match to the flavors of a barbecue sauce but most are ideal partners. Think high acidity and refreshing aromatics. Pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are almost always safe bets with almost any sauce. If the sauce takes on spicy and sweet flavors, consider rieslings and gewurztraminers.

THE VALUE

  • 2018 Montinore Riesling, Oregon (about $13 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2018 Daniel Chotard Sancerre, France (about $26 retail)

And then there’s the all-purpose go-to, best bet, never let you down summertime grilling treat. If you read this column regularly you can already guess this match will always be a dry rosé. It’s the refreshing, chilled, slight tannic structure of these wines that make these combinations work.

THE VALUE

  • 2017 Acrobat Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon (about $14 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2017 Commanderie de la Bargemone Provence Rosé, France (about $17 retail)
Wine’s residual sugar determines sweetness, dryness

Wine’s residual sugar determines sweetness, dryness

Residual sugar is an often misunderstood wine term. Many people wrongly think residual sugar means the wine is sweet. To further complicate the topic, there is an undeserved stigma among wine drinkers regarding sweet wines.

Residual sugar (or RS) refers to the natural grape sugars left over in a wine after the alcoholic fermentation is complete. It is measured in grams per liter. The amount of residual sugar will vary in different types of wine depending on the varietal and style. Many wines labeled “dry” may have as much as 9 g/L of residual sugar. Wines with 35 grams per liter of residual sugar are those most would consider to taste sweet.

The sugar in grapes is a blend of glucose and fructose. Grape juice starts out intensely sweet. During the fermentation process, yeasts will eat the natural sugars, resulting in alcohol. When the yeasts consume all or almost all of the sugar present the result is dry; when the winemaker makes the choice to stop the fermentation before all of the sugar has been consumed by the yeast the resulting wines will retain some residual sugar. The resulting wines range from off dry to sweet.

DRY (0-9 G/L RS)

Almost all red and most white wines fall into this category.

Dry red wines include pinot noir, malbec, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Valpolicella (except Recioto della Valpolicealla), dry rose.

Dry white wines include pinot grigio, unoaked chardonnay, some riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc.

OFF DRY (10-18 G/L RS)

Off dry wines include demi-sec Vouvray, “extra dry” Champagne, Lambrusco secco

MEDIUM DRY AND SEMI-SWEET (19-50 G/L RS)

Medium dry/semisweet wines include chenin blanc, “dry” Champagne

MEDIUM SWEET (51-120 G/L RS)

Moscato d’Asti, Moscatos, Lambrusco, many Rieslings, “demi sec” or “sec” Champagne, Port and maderia are medium sweet wines.

SWEET (121 AND ABOVE G/L RS)

Often called dessert wines, Sauternes, Tokaji, ice wines, some rieslings, Recioto della Valpolicealla fall into this category.

THE VALUE

  • 2018 Bell’Agio Lambrusco, Italy (about $12 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2018 Castello Del Poggio DOCG Moscato d’Asti, Italy (about $19 retail)