Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Top 10 Questions about Wine: 5&6

Well, we have been on quite the hiatus (apologies!) but it is time to get back to the “top questions asked about wine on Ask.com.”

#5. What is Marsala wine?

Marsala is from the Sicily region of Italy and is a fortified wine which, if you missed our earlier post, is a beverage made by adding spirits (specifically Brandy in this case) to wine in order to stop fermentation and add alcohol strength. Marsala wines are aged via the solera method (also used in producing Sherry), in which wines of various ages are stored in individual casks and blended together for each new bottling.

Originated by English merchant traders in Italy going back two centuries, Marsala remains one of Sicily's most treasured products today. Unfortunately, Marsala developed a poor reputation over the years when it was used mainly for cooking or flavored with sweeteners. It has been making a comeback of sorts in recent years as wine connoisseurs have discovered the finer side of this fortified wine. You can find wonderfully rich and nutty Marsala wines, from producers such as Marco De Bartoli, which can be an exceptionally enjoyable conclusion to a special meal. The best Marsalas are characterized by flavors such as spice, dried fruits, nuts, caramel, and citrus, most notably orange. If you can get your hands on any Bartoli Marsala, we recommend you try it. A great article about Marsala can be found in the NY Times Home & Garden archives of all places. The article is from 1993 but it’s still relevant so check it out if you find yourself intrigued.

Incidentally, there are several different classes of Marsala, which basically have to do with the length of ageing, from at least 1 year up to at least 5 years. Look for ‘Vergine’ on the label if you want authentic Marsala dessert wine. The Vergine category of Marsala guarantees that the solera method was used and nothing was added to the wine except for the alcohol used to fortify it. One last thing to know is that Marsala is oxidized already (much the same as sherry) and will not go bad once you open the bottle. Enjoy!

#6. What wine goes best with chicken?

Ahhhh, the chicken question! Although we do not advocate hard and fast food and wine pairing rules, there are some wines that can make your poultry experience all the more enjoyable. Whether you prefer red or white wine, there is an answer for you. Generally speaking, the best reds to pair with chicken fall on the lighter side, for example Beaujolais from France, Dolcetto from Italy, and Pinot Noir from California, Oregon, or Burgundy. On the white wine side, the best all-purpose pairings are Chardonnay and Riesling.

That said, we all know there are hundreds of ways to prepare chicken. If you are going all-out BBQ on your chicken, then you might do best with a heartier red wine such as Zinfandel or even Syrah/Shiraz. Sauces and rubs tend to be a better indication of wine-match than the protein it happens to be glazing. If you like your chicken fried, break out some Chianti or Sangiovese (the main grape used to make Chianti) or, better yet, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine. Sometimes heavier dishes, such as fried foods, need a wine with refreshing acidity to keep your palate happy. Asian-influenced chicken dishes (think spicy), call for a Riesling or Gewurztraminer to match the spice flavors and put out the fire with sweet fruit and cool acidity.

The list of chicken dishes goes on and on, but this should give you a good idea of what will match well and elevate your meal. Two useful tips to remember are not to overpower your chicken -- which undressed is a pretty mild food – and, most importantly, drink what you like! Cheers.

Stay tuned for more question and answer fun later this week (we know better than to say tomorrow these days…).

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