The first of the holiday invitations arrived this weekend and indicated a highlight of the event would be “mulled” wine. As a lover and respecter of both history and tradition, I appreciate the idea of “mulling” wine but not the mulled wine itself. In my dotage, I prefer the wine as made, restricting my mixing to the occasional kir as an aperitif.
Perhaps my appreciation of wines mulled would be greater if our wines today resembled those of the Middle Ages when mulling was born. The addition of fruit, spices, and sugar and/or honey to wine offset the unpleasantness of poorly made wine or its overlong storage and undoubtedly brightened many a festive event. So be it — and kudos to those who re-create Victorian or Tyrolean holiday get-togethers.
In Heidelberg, my German colleagues would serve Gluhwein on frosty nights, a red or white wine, often heated, highly sweetened with sugar and doses of cinnamon and other spices and explain that it would cure a cold or prevent the flu or both. To them, the preparation of a Gluhwein was a work of art, a personal concoction of mixtures traceable to their own families. Even so, to me it was just a wine distorted by additional flavorings.
When we were in our little place in the Roussillon, the neighbors often served Sangria, a spiced red wine in a large bowl with fresh fruit floating atop, some even including a dollop or two of brandy. Again, some families seemed to be known for their special Sangria preparation.
Strangely, specific recipes are hard to come by. Commercially mixed Sangria is available, but when you seek out a recipe you find only general guidance. There seems to be no specific amount of any one ingredient. One adds what the spirit (if I may) moves him to add.
Mulled wine, Gluhwein, and Sangria are not to be dismissed They occupy honored places in our history of wine consumption. As I make the rounds of this season’s festivities, however, I shall look for the odd bottle here and there somewhere near the common bowl in hopes of finding a tasty white or red, as my palate prefers, but I will not refuse to place dipper in the bowl and pour the mulled juice in my glass. After all, there is always the chance that some host or hostess has stumbled across the perfect mull.
On a recent flight to New Orleans, I had it in mind that I’d find something blog worthy in the trip. The topic fell right into my lap as soon as I picked up the Southwest Airlines magazine, “Spirit.” New Orleans: A Cocktail Tour was a well-written, engaging article about the history and current trends of alcohol in New Orleans. You know a city where the best known street is named “Bourbon” has quite a “spirited” history! Rather than wines, though, the locally produced beverages are bourbon, rum, whiskey, beer and herb-based liqueurs like Herbsaint and Peychaud’s bitters.
This article made reference to several of the best bartenders in New Orleans, including Nick Dietrich, a Bloomngton native, who moved to New Orleans in 2008, with some other Bloomngton friends. Nick got his start working at some the Bloomington bars and restaurants. He is currently at a newly opened bar called Cane and Table, which is so popular that it doesn’t even have a sign out front!
Leave it to Louisiana to have a state cocktail! The Sazerac is arguably America’s first cocktail. The ingredients are variable, but are basically a potent blend of rye, Peychaud’s bitters and Herbsaint. This is not a drink for beginners. In fact, the first time I asked for it, the bartender talked me out of it and into a fruity girlie drink. However, I was determined to order it the next day and drank it down like a sailor!
NOLA folks also retain their love of anything French, which brings me to their love of Champagne. One of the more popular cocktails was created at Arnaud’s restaurant: the French 75, a blend of cognac, fresh lemon juice and Champagne. Michael’s Uptown serves a nice French 75, just in case you want to savor a bit of The Big Easy in Bloomington!
Yes, I tried the 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau. Yes, I liked it. I like it every year. I wouldn’t miss trying it. It’s festive; it’s fun; it’s an event.
Is it a good wine? Is it really wine? Is it worth all the fuss? Depends. I’m not sure it’s really wine; yet, having said that, I’ve encountered a lot of wines with fewer qualifications. “Good,” of course, is subjective. If you like it, enjoy it, it’s good. If you like complexity, seriousness in wine, then you may not appreciate the New Beaujolais.
I have sampled it on the midnight of the third Thursday of November in the wineries where it is produced and witnessed the massive deployment of trucks and helicopters and limousines heading out of the region for airports and Frankfurt and Paris before the laws relaxed enough to allow for some shipping to staging warehouses before the authorized release date. I have sampled it in some of the most highly-rated restaurants in France and at a variety of parties with revelers trying to show off the most imaginative ways to present it and always with the same result: I was glad I did it.
A wine to lay down? Never. A wine to compare with others? Not at all. Accept it for what it is — a wine released for fun, for frivolous enjoyment, and, above all, for bringing instant cash to an often overlooked wine region. Now into a fortnight after release, I have had quite enough New Beaujolais fun for this year and will return to other bottlings till next year.OLDER POSTS »