The holidays are zooming towards us at a breakneck speed and soon we’ll be surrounded by the smells wafting from the oven, mingled with pine from the tree as more needles fall to the floor onto the debris of the long anticipated and hastily opened gifts.
Our exercise routines will have been forsaken and replaced with as worthy a cause, and a bottle opener with which to perform the task. It’s time to open the bottles you’ve been batting your eyelashes at for too long, promising to open them on a ‘special occasion’ and share those special wines with your special gathering on a most special day.
This post is not about those special bottles. This is about a wine that is a wonderful addition to them, because in order for those wines to shine, they need an opening act. This humble primer needs no fanfare, it doesn’t long to be oohed and ahhed at, it’s just glad to be invited and hopes to provide a lively burst of bright red fruitiness. It will happily help you get the party started, and then will unassumingly return for an encore as the Christmas pud is making the rounds.
What is this charming little darling? None other than Brachetto d’Acqui (bra-ket-toe d-ak-wee). Brachetto is an uncommon combination of three elements – it’s red, sparkling and sweet. Aren’t you already curious?
Brachetto is the name of grape variety and it’s grown in Piedmont, Italy, in the areas of Alessandria and Asti. Brachetto d’Acqui has been classified as DOCG since 1996 and before that, was DOC from 1969.
Brachetto can be made as a still wine, but you’re much more likely to see it in its bubbly form. There are two different levels of fizz – frizzante and spumante. A frizzante wine is less sparkling, just the lightest touch of bubble, the minimum alcohol is lower, at only 5.5% and it is bottled with a regular wine cork. Spumante on the other hand, is fully sparkling and therefore bottled under a cage, just like sparkling wine and Champagne. The minimum alcohol is a smidge higher, but still a low 7%.
Just as Prosecco, Brachetto d’Acqui get its bubbles through the Charmat or tank method, which is different to the traditional method used in Champagne. It’s called the tank method as the second fermentation happens in large tanks and the wine is then bottled under pressure. The level of sweetness is in the demi-sec range (between 32-50 grams of residual sugar per liter).
If you’re a fan of Moscati d’Asti (also a sweet, sparkling wine from Northwest Italy), you’ll love Brachetto – it’s the red version. It’s crammed with juicy strawberries and raspberries and a touch of rose petal. It’s a soft, fruity, fun-loving sparkler, so you can see how it would be perfect to put in the hands of your guests as they arrive for your holiday celebration, and with the low alcohol, it means no-one will be too sloshed to enjoy the ‘special’ wines you bring out later.
And once the holidays are over, Brachetto d’Acqui is the perfect choice with Asian food (the sweetness tames the spice), duck or pork served with a cherry or cranberry sauce, all sorts of fruity desserts like trifles and flans.
And if you’re into the occasional cocktail, Brachetto d’Acqui makes the perfect ingredient as I found out recently at Nobu on South Beach in Miami. Bar Manager, Jad, made two exquisite concoctions, the first has no name (or it probably does I just don’t know it), but was thoroughly enjoyable and the second, the ‘Lychetto’ was even more delicious! Recipes below.
Here’s wishing you lots of fabulous wine drinking over the holidays, including the discovery of some ‘new to you’ wines and rediscovery of some of your all time favorites!
Fresh grapefruit & cucumber
Fresh honey syrup
Double strained and topped with Brachetto d’Acqui
Yuzu juice (Yuzu is an East Asian citrus fruit and tastes like a cross between a grapefruit & a mandarin orange)
Fresh lychee juice (a Nobu staple)
Garnished with a lychee
Got any other ideas for Brachetto d’Acqui cocktails? I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet @tara_devon.
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