And lets start with the easiest of grapes which paradoxically has been causing the biggest funfair in the wine world for the last 30 or so years...
This humble grape is called Gamay. Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, to be precise. It is mostly planted in France in the area of Beaujolais, north-west of Lyon and along the river Saune. Geographically Beaujolais belongs to Burgundy. Compared to other varieties growing in the wider area of mighty Burgundy, Gamay, in the words of Oz Clarke, was never "blockbusting". It is a grape low in tannins, with high acidity, yet, it can be appealing to those who prefer a fresh, fruity, aromatic and light red.
Gamay has become synonymous with Beaujolais which in turn has become synonymous with Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November, a huge PR event, that started in the mid-80's and is still going strong especially in the American and Japanese markets.
|2012 Advertising campaign sought to associate Beaujolais Nouveau with French fashion|
Most Beaujolais is meant to be drunk young because its lack of tannins make it vulnerable to oxidation and because of its special maceration process, which releases all the aromas of the fruit. This process is called Macération Carbonique (Carbonic Maceration) where carbon dioxide is added to the vats where the whole un-pressed grapes are stored. In this oxygen deprived environment the grapes are "forced" to release their own oxygen and ferment inside their skins, releasing particularly strong aromas. Typically a Beaujolais will give out notes of pears, bananas, raspberries and cherries.
Being the only oenophile in this house I was presented with a huge heart breaking question...what was I to do with the remaining wine in my bottles? I surely could not picture myself pouring it down the sink. Cooking something with it would partially solve the problem but still some would remain. And then the idea came to me ... I am going to use it to experiment ... Nothing fancy involving test tubes and petri dishes. Just a few fresh fruits, spices and honey to enhance the wine's aromatic character and make it more appealing to the rest of the household...
A few months ago I saw a recipe for a Cranberry Orange Wassail and thought that I could make something like this using wine instead of apple cider. I raided the cupboards and the pantry and found some of the required ingredients. I improvised a bit with the cooking time and ended up with a concoction so flavourful and aromatic that with difficulty I managed to save half a cup for the photographs!
Warm Red Wine with Fruits and Spices
Adapted from And Love it Too
For 8 people
1 cup raw honey
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
2 large oranges, un-waxed and washed, cut into quarters
1 vanilla pod
Pour the wine, pineapple juice and honey in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a slow simmer add the cinnamon, vanilla pod, cranberries and oranges.
Cover half way and simmer on low heat for 2 - 3 hours depending on how concentrated you want the end result to be. Mine turned out to like a spicy wine liqueur.
If you want a quicker alternative simmer it for 30 - 45 minutes.
When it is ready, strain the oranges, vanilla, cinnamon and cranberries and drink warm of cold.