Every bottle has a story

I am not a wine expert, but with each bottle I try and share with friends, I learn more. Wine is an exceptional social drink; it is the marijuana of alcoholic beverages because it must be shared. I seek to share with you my thoughts and experiences as I drink the wine in my closet, as well as my enthusiasm for the finds that come my way and the excellent values that I find. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too, so please share!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A classic apéritif from Provence

I’ve been reading “The Magic of Provence: Pleasures of Southern France,” by Yvone Lenard, a wonderful book about the author’s experiences in Provence after she and her husband bought a vacation home there. And one of the very cool things about this book is that each chapter ends with a recipe. One of the recipes that caught my eye right away was for kir.

While there are many variations on the kir, the classic kir is made with a Chardonnay wine, usually a Chablis, that is poured over a small amount of Crème de Cassis. There is also the Kir Royale in which Champagne is substituted for the Chablis. You can use a New World Chardonnay as well, as long as you find one that hasn’t been in oak or has that annoying creaminess that too many American Chardonnays have.

Friends Nate and Steve came over for dinner and I asked them to bring such a Chardonnay with them for making classic kir. None of us had ever tasted this before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. I supplied the Crème de Cassis, but I had a bit of a dilemma when it came to what food to serve with the kir. Crème de Cassis is a sweet, dark liqueur made from blackcurrant. Given that, I was anticipating the sweet fruit of the cassis along with the freshness of an un-oaked Chardonnay with some minerality. I asked someone at Whole Foods, but they were just as flummoxed as I. For cheese, I settled on some drunken goat cheese, as its smooth and creamy texture ought to work well with the kir. And I also picked up some smoked salmon.

For a proper kir, you want both ingredients very cold. Pour a small amount – about a tablespoon – of the Crème de Cassis into the bottom of your wine glass. Then pour in the wine. Nate and Steve brought a 2009 Santa Barbara Chardonnay that worked excellently. The Four Vines Naked Chardonnay is aged in steel rather than oak, so it had the crispness and acidity desired. When you pour it into the cassis, you get a rosé-colored liquid that is rich and enticing. And tasting? It was delicious! Definitely a new drink to enjoy with friends. You could taste the blackcurrant, but the Chardonnay lightened it up so it wasn’t too sweet at all.

And it was fabulous with the smoked salmon. The drunken goat cheese was delicious with it as well. So I highly recommend serving kir as your next apéritif with friends.

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