Roses are red, Wine is too, I’ll have a glass, how about you?

I love wine.  I do.  However, I don’t know a whole lot about it.  My husband and I went on an amazing wine tasting in Tuscany during our honeymoon, and that was really our first brush with wine awareness. Through the years I have always liked wine, but I was never very educated on it.  I still don’t really know what kinds of wine I really like. Pinot Noir? Cabernet Sauvignon? Chianti?  Pinot Grigio? Boxed wine? Screw Top?  It was all the same to me.  So I have started to listen to the BEST podcast ever.  It is called Wine for Normal People.  They have a great blog too.  It breaks it all down for you in simple terms while giving you really interesting information.  Seriously, I can’t say enough about this podcast.  But because of my budding interest in wine, I thought it would be fun to do a Valentine’s Day wine tasting for two last night.

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You could go in a lot of different directions with this.  You can do a tasting with several different varietals (one Pinot Noir, one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Merlot etc) OR you can do what we did and try three different brands of the same kind of wine.  We knew we liked Chianti Classico so we set out to try three different kinds.

Now there are a few interesting facts about regular Chianti vs. Chianti Classico.  First thing is, it is important to know that if you’re drinking Chianti, Sangiovese is the majority grape in that bottle.

Bottles simply labeled as “Chianti” are made from a mix grapes from several regions in the Chianti region. The main difference with generic Chianti and the rest, is that the minimum percentage of Sangiovese allowed is 75%, with the rules permitting white grapes to be blended in and at least 11.5% alcohol content.  Because of the white wine grapes being allowed to be mixed, it allows the wine to be more cost-effective for the winery.  It also produces a less exciting and more generic kind of wine which is why there is a distinction between the two.

The Chianti Classico region is central to the region of Chianti. In 1996 it was awarded DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status, in an effort to raise its perceived quality. All Italian DOCG wines are actually tasted and analyzed in a lab in order to meet government approval.  If the wine passes, it will receive an individually numbered governmental seal across the cap or cork. (you can see in the photo the pink seal across the top) Chianti Classico’s are also the wines that you will see bearing a black rooster on the neck of the bottle. This is a conglomeration of Chianti producers whom have set up the Consorzio Chianti Classico, in a bid to improve the quality and reputation of the region.

The minimum percentage of Sangiovese allowed in Chianti Classico is 80%, with only red grapes permitted to make up the rest of the blend. Producers can of course choose to make their wine up to 100% Sangiovese, but it’s the exception and not the rule. The alcohol content must also be at least 12%, and the wine must spend at least 12 months aging in oak barrels.

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So what I did for our tasting is I stuck a number on each bottle, one through three.  And then each of us had three wine glasses with the numbers one through three.  We poured the “one” bottle into the “one”  glass, the “two” bottle into the “two” glass and so on.  Then we each tried all three and ranked the three in order of favorite to least favorite.  Then we shared our answers with each other.  Our favorite was bottle number one.  Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico 2005.  We both noticed that it was the easiest to drink, especially with food and it smelled and tasted like black cherries.  It is probably the only time I have ever been able to correctly identify what a wine smells or tastes like.  The other two were good but very different from number one.  This was such a fun thing to do at home with dinner, it made for some pretty hilarious conversation as we were trying to figure out what they smelled and tasted like (have I mentioned we really know nothing about wine).  But it was a fun, easy activity to warm up a cold winter’s night.  This would also be a great dinner party activity.

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When you are feeling on the rocks…

How about a New Friend? My friend gave me this cocktail book that I use ALL.THE.TIME. It is called Potation Handbook by Steve Carrow. It was printed locally by Rohner Letterpress and I was lucky enough to have a friend in the PR world who was able to score one of these SWEET limited edition books from one of the best bartenders in town. He is rumored to make the best Sazerac in Chicago, which is funny because there are not a ton of bartenders around these parts that have truly mastered the art. I would know, I LOVE a good Sazerac.

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Anyhoo, I had a particularly rough day yesterday and I thought, “I know I need a drink, but why not try a fancy drink from my trusty book?” Thus, I settled on a drink called “new friend” mainly because I had all of the ingredients already (there are 3) and it seemed to pack a punch; the name didn’t hurt either. It was actually much more pleasant than I anticipated. It was sweet with a kick, but not too sugary. Just what I needed, in fact.

Heres the recipe:

1 1/2 oz bourbon

3/4 oz Aperol

3/4 oz Lillet Blanc

You have to STIR it in a glass and then strain it into a coupe glass (as shown) or a martini glass. Dont shake it or it will get too watered down. The result is a perfect “new friend” you can hang out with at the end of a hard day.

Here are some photos of the sparks flying as we are getting to know each other:

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Oh happy day!

Coup glasses: Anthopologie, Coasters: One Kings Lane, Stirrers: Pottery Barn