Let’s Talk Food: Tomorrow is New Year’s Day

Today is New Year’s Eve and the last day of 2019.

When we think about New Year’s Eve, we think about champagne or sparkling wines. Champagne is French sparkling wine and must come from the region of Champagne in France. Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet &Chandon and Champagne Krug are just some of the brands that come to mind.

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It is thought that in 1693 Dom Pierre Perignon, a French monk, perfected the making of champagne. He lived in a Bendictine abbey in Hautvillers, a village in the Champagne region. Sparkling wines existed before this date, but Dom Perignon made the greatest contribution by developing the technique to finally make the champagne as we know of today. His famous quote is “Come quickly. I am drinking the stars.”

Italy produces prosecco, that country’s sparkling wine, but producers have been having problems with soil erosion. In 2016, their harvest failure was more than 50%; at the beginning of 2018, they suffered a shortage of wines and this year, because of the rapid changes from hot to cold weather, have another shortage. Added to the climate changes, the vineyards between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are suffering from erosion at a rate 11 times higher than the Italian average.

Prosecco has such a tremendous marketing success and the demand cannot keep up with the supply. The hillsides where the grapes are grown have lost more than 400,000 tons of soil each year with the heavy rains.

According to professor Chris Collins, coordinator for the U.K.’s soil security program, “The more soil you can leave in situ, the better in terms of nutrients. When soil gets downstream, it causes sedimentation. It also makes water treatment expensive because they have to take the soil out, and it can take pesticides downstream.”

Collins stresses that Italian winemakers need to manage their vineyards better, especially because the world consumes 370 million bottles of prosecco a year. Italy is the highest consumer, with the U.K. being second and third is the U.S. So important is prosecco to the United Kingdom that Boris Johnson told Italy it would sell less prosecco if it failed to accept the U.K.’s Brexit demands.

Here in America, we have sparkling wines such as Gloria Ferrer, Mumm’s Napa Valley, Schramberg’s, Domaine Carneros, Frank Family Blanc de Blancs and Domaine Chandon.

Amy Reilly of Gayout writes of the 2011 Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs: Aroma of white flowers, fresh squeezed lemons, hint of smoke. On the palate: intense, with honey, creme fraiche, Finish: vanilla flan which lingers.

Domaine Carneros is part of the Taittinger wines and a 750 ml bottle will set you back about $115.

So why is it so expensive, you ask?

The production process of sparkling wines is quite complicated and complex. It requires two fermentations, with quite of bit time needed for aging. In addition, “riddlers” during the fermentation period must turn each bottle daily by hand.

You can add orange juice and cointreau halfway in a champagne flute and add chilled champagne to fill the glass to make a mimosa or add white pear puree or mango nectar with champagne to make a bellini. That would create a sweet, bubbly drink and would stretch the bottle of sparkling wine. Prosecco is a good sparkling wine to make a mimosa or bellini as it usually costs less than $15 per 750 ml bottle.

• • •

If you don’t enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, you can certainly cook with it. Here is a recipe for sparkling wine cream sauce with fettuccine and truffle oil.

Sparkling Wine Cream Sauce with Fettuccine and Truffle Oil

Serves: 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 leaves sage, chopped

4 ounces cream cheese

2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream)

1 1/2 cups sparkling wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of black pepper

1 pound fettuccine pasta

Fresh parsley for topping

2 tablespoons truffle oil or as needed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter, garlic and sage. Cook for 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and the sage is crispy. Stir in cream and cream cheese. Bring to a boil and simmer until smooth and creamy, 5 minutes.

Add the sparkling wine, gorgonzola, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg and a pinch of black pepper, whisk until the cheese has fully melted. Stir in 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and then add the dry pasta noodles and place the lid on the pot.

Once the noodles have softened, add them into the sauce. (They can still be hard.) Transfer the pasta and sauce to a 9-by-13-inch dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Stir the pasta and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, plate the pasta. Garnish with parsley, black pepper and truffle oil.

Foodie notes

• I have always been taught to open a sparkling wine with a towel, slowly turning the cork until the pressure is released. The sound should be like a French woman sighing.

The cork can become a very dangerous projectile if open improperly.

• A traditional bellini is made with prosecco and a traditional mimosa is made with French champagne. In many recipes, a splash of Grand Marnier cognac is added to the mimosa to accentuate the orange flavor.

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Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2020 to all my readers!

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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