Saturday, January 25, 2014

For your Sunday brunch -- Anna de Codorniu sparkling wine

I remember the day I took the photo below. Beastly hot, in August. You can't tell. 

This Brut NV (non-vintage, meaning it is made from grapes harvested in several different years rather than in one year of terrific weather) is very light, delicate, and dry. It would be excellent with the rich comestibles of a summer Sunday brunch -- waffles, potato casseroles, bacon, fruits, pancakes, jams and syrups, sliced ham and eggs. If you would like to use it to make a "champagne" type cocktail, you might try something new. Why not indulge in a Prince of Wales? To make it, you will need:

1 sugar cube
dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 ounce (half a jigger) Cognac
orange wedge
stemmed cherry
Champagne or Anna de Codorniu
1/4 ounce (1 and 1/2 teaspoon) Bénédictine (herbal spice liqueur from Fécamp, Normandy)

Drop the sugar cube into a small highball glass. Saturate with Angostura, add an ice cube, and pour in the Cognac. Garnish with an orange wedge and a cherry, and then fill with Champagne. Gradually pour in the Bénédictine.

Speaking of royalty, from Codorniu's website we learn that this Anna is a kind of royalty among the wines of the Codorniu brand, which is itself the royalty of Spanish wine making. The Raventos family traces its roots to a seventeenth-century marriage between two established winemaking dynasties -- the bride Anna Codorniu, the last of her family to bear that surname, and the groom Miquel Raventos -- and has devoted itself to producing fine sparkling wine ever since a nineteenth-century patriarch, Josep Raventos, visited Champagne and decided its bubbly methods would be just right for the still wines of his house. In 1983 this Anna de Codorniu was the first Spanish sparkling wine (cava) ever to be made partly from Chardonnay and partly from the three traditional grapes of cava, Parellada, Macabeo and the intriguingly alien-sounding Xarel-Lo. It is now Spain's and the world's "iconic" cava.

There's just a bit more confusion to clear up before we enjoy our brunch, our Anna, or our Prince of Wales. Cava, as of 1986, is a Spanish Denominacion de Origen or D.O., meaning wines called cava are guaranteed to come from a certain place and to be made with certain grapes in a certain way. (Note that the Codorniu brand happily had the idea to include chardonnay before any rules for Cava were codified. Raimat, owned by Codorniu, and Segura Viudas, owned by Freixenet, followed suit.) These upfront, on-the-label guarantees hold in European winemaking; an Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) or a French Appellation d'Origine Controlee (A.O.C.) wine is also announcing to you where it comes from and how it was made. The Cava D.O., however, is unusual in that no less than eight different geographical areas in Spain have gotten the okay to produce it. What's special about Cava is the fact that it is made like Champagne -- already finished, light and rather acidic still wines are given a fresh dose of sugar and yeasts, capped, and allowed to go through a second fermentation right there in the bottle, as if the bottle were its own mini-wine vat. That can be done in many other places besides where the Codorniu and Raventos families first set up shop in 1551, in the Catalan region. Think Barcelona -- cava is Catalan for cellar. So, although almost all Cava does come from that area, it is possible to buy a "Cava D.O." from, say -- Rioja. It is also possible to buy a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional, bottle-fermented French way, but not from one of the eight areas already approved for it. In which case you will face the half-lilting, half-terrifying phrase "vino espumoso natural método tradicional" on the label.*    

It's enough to make you thirsty for a fresh drink. Try, this time, the simple, shall we say the iconic  Champagne cocktail according to the rules laid down by Charles Schumann in American Bar: once again, we start with a sugar cube and Angostura bitters. (Why?)

Champagne Cocktail 

1 sugar cube
dashes Angostura bitters
Champagne or sparkling wine
lemon peel
orange wedge

Place the sugar cube in a champagne flute. Soak with Angostura, and pour in Champagne. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop into the glass, along with a wedge of orange. 

* The New Wine Lover's Companion, by Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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