Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at how you can choose a sparkling wine to suit your taste and budget. So now you’ve got your sparkling wine – let’s get the party started! Here are a few top tips for serving your sparkling wine and some recipes for easy dishes to serve with it.
At what temperature should you serve sparkling wine?
Whatever their style, all sparkling wines are best served chilled, ideally to around 6°C-10°C (43°F-50°F). If you serve sparkling wine too cold, it will be very refreshing but you won’t be able to appreciate the aromas and flavours as much. I often get the bottle out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
What if the wine just arrived and you need to chill it fast?
It has been proven that the fastest way to chill your bottles or cans down is to put them in a bucket of cold water and ice.
What glasses are best?
The best glasses for sparkling wine are flute-shaped, as this helps retain the bubbles (and the aromas) for longer than more open styles of glass.
What food can you serve with sparkling wine?
Sparkling wine is the most versatile type of wine of all. It’s refreshing, great on its own and pairs with pretty much any kind of food. Its high acidity means you can pair it with fatty foods, like pâté or cheese, or dishes with acidic ingredients, like tomatoes or vinegar.
Sip it by the pool on a hot day; uncork it with zest for a special celebration or team it up with pâté for a sophisticated start to a dinner party. Anything goes.
In the UK, you can buy hummous in any supermarket and most delicatessens. Not so in Chile, where it is hard to find and expensive.
I used to view it as something difficult to make but then I decided just to simplify things and figured out my own, super easy version of this great spread. This is fast food, delicious and healthy. What more could you want? It will last for a few days in the fridge and is one of those dishes that tastes better the day after it’s made.
For a stress-free party, make-ahead dishes like Helen’s easy hummous are a godsend.
380g (or thereabouts) of ready-cooked chickpeas (in a can or carton)
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of Tahini
Salt to taste
Crush the garlic into a bowl.
Add a pinch of salt and the cumin.
Drizzle over the olive oil and the tahini.
Add the chickpeas (don’t throw away the liquid from the tin or carton).
If you have a great food processor, you can whizz the whole lot in that. As mine looks like it will give up the ghost if I try to purée this mix in it, I just make my hummous manually using a potato masher. It only takes a couple of minutes and the result is a bit rustic but very tasty anyway.
If the mixture seems a bit dry, add some of the chickpea liquid until it has the right consistency: moist but thick, like a pâté.
OK, so this is not exactly a new invention, but prawn cocktail is a great standby if you need to entertain at short notice! It’s very fast to get together and still very delicious, even if it has been around for decades. Go on, check it out!
A pack of ready cooked prawns (as many as your budget will allow)
3 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
3 heaped tablespoons tomato ketchup
Good dash of Worcestershire sauce
Garnish: some lettuce or rocket or cucumber
Arrange the garnish on the plate or in a glass serving bowl.
Homemade pâté is a really great starter or appetizer and it goes beautifully with sparkling wine or sweet white wine.
It took me a long time to find a pâté recipe I liked. A lot of recipes use obscene amounts of butter or cream and I’m dairy intolerant. Also I wanted something that tasted sinful but didn’t have like a gazillion calories in every mouthful.
So I was delighted when I found this recipe for a healthy, dairy-free chicken liver pâté, which is quick and easy to make and quite economical. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge.
2 large eggs
500g chicken livers
1 good sized onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves (more if you want), chopped
Herbs and seasonings –whatever you fancy. I add rosemary and sage.
Soft boil the eggs, so the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny (about 7 minutes).
Peel them and leave them to cool.
Fry the onion in the olive oil until it is translucent.
Add the garlic and chicken livers.
It’s important to keep plenty of liquid in the pan. If it runs low, you can add half a glass of white wine, brandy, water or stock, just to keep it moist.
Cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through. It’s important not to overcook, as they get tougher.
Let the chicken liver mix cool a little.
Put the eggs, chicken liver mix (liquid, onions and all) in the food processor or liquidizer.
Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Don’t stint on the herbs and black pepper.
Blend until smooth. Check the taste and adjust the seasoning till you’re happy.
Put into a container and leave in the fridge for at least two hours.
Links to other recipes for food which pairs well with sparkling wine:
I recently read an article by a woman who argued that starting a business beyond the age of 40 is just too tiring and risky. I was thinking about that as I met Chilean organic sparkling wine producer Daniel Raab, who has bucketloads of entrepreneurial spark despite being a silver-haired grandfather. Let’s face it: whatever your business or profession, it’s not your age that defines you, but rather your attitude.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain
Daniel Raab is the owner of Domaine Raab Ramsay, a boutique organic vineyard nestling in Chile’s Marga Marga valley, an area you’ll struggle to find on any viticultural map. It seems that this valley was once dotted with small vineyards but almost all are gone now, under the pressure of water scarcity and real estate growth. Indeed modern housing now flanks the estate.
He makes sparkling wines and cider using in-bottle fermentation, with relatively long ageing using the traditional pupitre system and his own special remouage technique to stir up the lees and add complexity to the wine.
He is always innovating in his cellar, for instance trying out new ways of cooling the must to slow down the fermentation process. He has also been experimenting with using must instead of the traditional water, sugar and yeast syrup known as liqueur de tirage. And, following disgorgement, he uses sparkling wine from the same batch to top up the bottles, rather than the sugar syrup called liqueur de dosage. If you consider that the base wine is fermented with just the natural ambient yeasts, it’s hard to imagine a more natural sparkling wine than this.
Domaine Raab Ramsay is not certified organic but operates according to organic principles. Mr Raab’s viticultural philosophy is to let nature do its work and only intervene if necessary and, for many years, he was Deputy Chairman for Chile’s former organic trade association, Agrupación de Agricultura Orgánica de Chile A.G.
He grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. He also has some plots of Gewürztraminer, but the vines are suffering from the recent years of water scarcity and he has all but written them off. Water is a serious problem and he has an intricate system of water tanks and hoses to feed the drip irrigation system. Despite the increased rainfall in Chile this winter, when I visited in early November, he was shaking his head and hoping for more rain. This valley doesn’t have a river or irrigation canal and so the rainwater stored in the tanks over the winter has to get him through the growing season.
After water, his biggest issue is rabbits: “I think they must use the trunks to sharpen their teeth or something,” he says, “as they do great damage.” To counteract them, he cuts the tops and bottoms off plastic bottles and uses them to protect the trunks of the vines. A fantastic initiative in terms of recycling but it must be tediously hard work to implement.
Mr Raab also buys in País grapes and says he was making a sparkling wine from País long before Miguel Torres came up with their prize-winning Estelado brand. He also buys in organic apples from a local producer to make cider, following the same technique as for his sparkling wine. One of his latest ideas is to try a pear and apple cider, so he recently planted a plot with 400 pear trees.
“Wine isn’t really a profitable business,” Daniel Raab says, “not unless your brand is really well-known. I keep the vines mostly because I want to maintain the native forest on the land.”
The vineyards are situated in an oasis of green, surrounded by native trees, such as lingue (Persea lingue), peumo (Cryptocarya alba) and quillay (Quillaja saponaria). The late afternoon air was filled with birdsong and the hum of bees clustered around the peumo blossom. We saw a group of enormous Chilean pigeons (Paloma araucana) in a tree and three types of native alstroemeria.
Over the years, Daniel Raab has tried several different business ventures to offset the not-so-profitable wine business he clearly loves. He farmed hens and then became a pioneer in turkey production in Chile, building up a highly successful business. Then, during Chile’s economic crisis the early 1980s, along with many other businesses in Chile, the turkey business went to the wall. His latest initiative is to rent space in his cellar and offer ancillary services for local wineries looking to add sparkling wine into their portfolio. He has recently invested a significant sum in extending his cellar and buying new equipment for this, his latest business venture and he already has a few takers. Something tells me his investment will pay off.
I asked Mr Raab to tell me about his three favourite wines:
Viña Maitia’s Aupa, a red blend of País with Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Concha y Toro’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor
Any Gewürztraminer wine.
An interesting mix of styles and grapes.
Tasting note for Domaine Raab Ramsay Blanc de Blancs
An intriguing sparkling wine with a complex nose, lovely in-mouth texture and just a hint of bitterness in the finish. Quite delightful.
For more information about sparkling wine, check out these posts in English or Spanish:
A group of 10 people of 6 different nationalities recently got together to blind taste 6 different Brut/Extra Brut wines retailing at under 10,000 Chilean pesos (£10 / US$15) and score them out of 10. We then calculated the average score for each wine to determine their ranking. Here are the results:
This was the sparkling wine which drew the biggest reactions – the judges either loved or hated it and it was outright favourite for two judges. This was quite different to the other wines tasted – more golden in colour and more complex and creamy, with more body and pronounced flavour.