30 June 2010

Benito vs. the Cocktail: Pisco Punch

Punch recipes are at the same time glorious and frustrating. Glorious in that they incorporate a lot of delicious ingredients and are meant for serving dozens of soon-to-be happy people. Frustrating in that they don't often scale well and it's hard to justify making a drink for yourself and a friend that begins with "3 bottles rum, 1 case kumquats (zest only), 6 bunches mint leaves, 5 pounds hand-shaved ice..."

I picked up a simplified Pisco Punch recipe via another cocktail blogger who goes by the name barkeep.

Pisco Punch
3 parts Pisco
2 parts Pineapple Juice
1 part Lime Juice
1 part Simple Syrup
3-4 drops Gum Arabic

Combine ingredients, shake and strain. I skipped the gum arabic. It's a callback to a version of the original (and lost to the grave) recipe that involved soaking chunks of fresh pineapple in gomme syrup. Indeed, for true punches you need industrial quantities of liquor and lots of friends who want to celebrate Victorian-style in absence of other refreshment. Since I don't know 20 people who drink like 1880s gold miners, I prefer this simpler recipe.

The cocktail is sort of woody from the Pisco. There's a stems and clippings flavor and aroma that comes through in Pisco. When mixed up, the dominant flavor is pineapple, with the lime just providing a little undertone of additional acidity.

Final verdict? If this was made with vodka or rum people would gulp it down without a second thought. Pisco is a bit different, and the aroma forces you to take it a little slower. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing depends on your attitude toward Pisco.

28 June 2010

NV Martini Prosecco Frizzante

I'm not sure what it's like in the rest of the country, but here in Memphis it's hot. Summer came strong and early, and there are days when you can stand outside and watch the grass slowly brown and die. The thermometer has reached 38°C/100°F, and we've still got July and August ahead. At times like this it's nice to step back from heavier red wines and look to something lighter and colder.

The NV Martini Prosecco Frizzante is a light sparkling wine from northern Italy in the Veneto. $15, 10.5% abv. This frizzante or lightly sparkling product has recently received DOC status. On the nose there is a touch of toast and lemon peel, just a little apple. A dash of lemony acidity on the palate, nice and fruity and just barely fizzy. Go ahead and serve this one nice and cold, and keep it in a bucket of ice on the table.

The packaging on this one is interesting, with a metal screwcap. You don't see that a lot with sparkling wines. There's the traditional mushroom Champagne cork, some places use bottlecaps, and there are weird plastic corks that show up on really cheap bottles. I love screwcaps on casual, everyday sorts of wines because they're so convenient, and here the pressure is low enough with this wine to make it a practical option.

I often recommend Prosecco as an inexpensive and delicious alternative for making Champagne cocktails like the French 75. I stand by that, but the cocktails will work better with the fizzier, more bubbly spumante style. By the time you add peach nectar, liqueurs, or other ingredients to this one you're not going to have much carbonation left.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

25 June 2010

2005 Château Greysac

I've written about several wines I've found on sale recently. In this economy, a lot of stuff gets marked down. Sometimes unscrupulous retailers are trying to shuffle off spoiled product on an unsuspecting populace, but other times there are incredible bargains to be found. For example: Wolfchase Wine & Spirits was recently selling 2005 Château Greysac for $11 a bottle. Greysac is generally an inexpensive Bordeaux, but I've paid $20 for it in the past and been happy with it. At $11, for the 2005 vintage, it's practically robbery.

The wine is 13% abv and comprised of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Aromas of black cherry, licorice, tomato leaves. Black cherry flavors dominate, with a clear and clean finish. Light body, a little on the tart side at first, but it mellows out with breathing. Medium tannins. Great match for any red meat and potatoes combination you could possibly imagine.

If you're looking to buy your first Bordeaux, or want an enjoyable wine of the style the Brits called a "good claret", this is the wine for you.

23 June 2010

Stone's Green Ginger Wine

On a recent hot Thursday afternoon, I joined Fredric for a wine tasting over at his place. I brought a very odd beer, and he sent me home with a very odd wine called Stone's Original Green Ginger Wine, a favorite in England since 1740. I looked at it, wondered where in the hell he got it, and ventured a sip. More on the flavor later, but he got it as a sample, and thought I might find it interesting since I have a tendency to write about some of the stranger corners of the wine and beverage world. (Though on previous visits, he has served me Mississippi corn wine and Italy's forbidden grape, Fragolino, so I do not mean to diminish his interest in esoterica.)

It's made with middle-eastern raisins and grated ginger, originally just a flavorful beverage that got a boost in the 1830s as a believed aphrodisiac and treatment for cholera. (You've got to love 19th century medicine.) It's sort of hard to call this a wine, as it's more like a low-alcohol liqueur or digestif than what we would normally call wine. I'd probably stock it with the vermouths if I had to make a choice. It is very sweet, and the overwhelming aroma and flavor is of ginger. You can barely taste the raisins in the background. Take flat ginger ale, mix with white grape juice, and bring the alcohol level up to 13.5%. You've got a mild version of this. The ginger is hot, peppery, and really blots out anything else. So for an experiment I had to try it as a cocktail ingredient. Looking at the website suggestions, I settled on the...

GVC Cocktail
2 parts Ginger Wine
1 part Vodka
1 part Cointreau
dash of Lime Juice
dash of Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a glass.

The wine glass contains the cocktail, while the shot glass contains pure ginger wine, just in case anyone was curious what it looked like raw. The end result of this cocktail is just a more tart version of the main ingredient with a huge alcohol boost. I would not recommend it. I'm a bit biased here, because while I love ginger, I really don't have a sweet tooth, and this is almost painfully sweet. I suppose if your family has been drinking it for 270 years you might feel differently about it, but after attacking this beverage from a dozen different directions I'm hard pressed to endorse it or even find a good use for it.

I sincerely hope that my dear readers from the Commonwealth will provide helpful suggestions in the comments!

Here are the sources for the old ads, and I've intentionally retained a bit of the adjacent ads just for context and headers. Note that these PDFs are nearly a thousand pages each, annual collections of weekly magazines.

To-day, A Weekly Magazine-Journal, Volume 16, November 13, 1897
Google Books Link

The Strand Magazine, Volume 16, July, 1898 to December, 1898
Google Books Link

Also view dozens more ads on a blog devoted to the product.

21 June 2010

Sud de France Synchronized Tasting

Today I join 90 other wine writers and bloggers around the world in a synchronized online tasting of the wines of Sud de France. Sud de France is a brand that includes multiple winemakers around Languedoc-Roussillon, focusing on inexpensive, food friendly, drink-now wines. The tasting kit sent to each participant contained five wines, and I've got to give them big thanks for the selection. Usually when you get a set of wine samples, it's five Zinfandels or three sparkling wines or some other grouping. This batch included an ideal distribution: one each of sparkling, white, rosé, red, and sweet.

NV Sieur d'Arques Grand Cuvée 1531
Crémant de Limoux
$12, 12% abv
Blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, and Pinot Noir.

This sparkling wine is crisp and tart with big bubbles and a slightly yeasty nose. Touch of green apple on the nose. There is always a need for inexpensive bubbly that drinks well and also looks classy. This is dry but fruity enough to appeal to a wide range of palates. At a price like this it would be a great choice for parties or wedding receptions.

I also think it would be superb with fresh oysters, though I enjoyed it with a dish of ricotta-stuffed pasta shells and wilted spinach.

2008 Gérard Bertrand Cigalus
Vin de Pays d'Oc
$30, 13.5% abv
75% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, 5% Sauvignon Blanc

Rich and floral, very light body, short aftertaste. Hints of apricot and jasmine, excellent balance. This is a fairly high end wine for Vin de Pays d'Oc, and shouldn't be treated as a simple table wine, and it drinks equally well at room temperature where more fruit fullness comes through in the flavor.

I enjoyed this with pizza topped with ham and mushrooms, a nice little lunch on a warm day. Anything salty and savory will help pull out the characteristics of the wine, so also think about olives and roasted garlic-based dishes.

NV Fruité Catalan Rosé
Côtes du Roussillon
$12, 13% abv
Blend of Syrah and Grenache.

This is a big, fruity rosé with dominant raspberry characteristics and just a touch of sweetness. There's a hint of tannins present and it is overall a fairly strong representative of the style. The Fruité wines also come packaged in boxes and tiny bottles, typically at bargain prices. Serve with a wide range of salads and sandwiches.

One funny little footnote: this wine is enclosed with a bright neon pink synthetic cork. I'm not a big fan of plastic corks, but out of the thousands of corks I've pulled this is the first one that looks like it belongs in Barbie's Malibu Dream House.

2006 Domaine Dromadaire 30670
Vin de Pays d'Oc
$12, 13% abv
Blend of Syrah and Grenache.

This is big, tannic, spicy, jammy. Lots of dark plum and black cherry, and you'll want to serve this with full-flavored burgers, roasted meats, or other strong food. It's more of a Rhone-style blend that you would expect from California or Australia than France, so think big and fruit-forward when making pairing decisions.

Background trivia here: 30670 is the postal code for Aigues-Vives. The word dromadaire refers to the dromedary, or one-humped camel. A blue and white checkered flag means the letter N or "no" in sailing.

2006 Mas de Madame
Muscat de Frontignan
$17, 15.5% abv
Made from the delightfully named Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, with the last part of the name meaning "small berries".

Sweet and musky, overripe peach and pear nectar aroma and flavor. Good acidity. This is very sweet for my tastes, but pair this with the right cheeses after dinner and you've got a solid hit.

Note that the label is scuffed up a bit here, a sad side effect of the shipping process. Also, all of the bottles here bear "FOR TASTING ONLY" white labels that are attached to the glass. I've attempted to position the bottles to minimize these, but you can still see them a bit.

* * *

Great lineup here, and many thanks to Sud de France for putting together this interesting tasting experience.

Note: These wines were received as samples from Sud de France. The tasting kit also included a complimentary wine glass and corkscrew.

18 June 2010

Benito vs. Spam®

Fans sometimes e-mail me and ask, "Why don't you do more posts using normal food? I don't keep duck wings and hydroponic Greek turnips on hand all the time." Perhaps I've spent too much time digging through the biological diversity of the local ethnic markets in search of weird and wonderful flavors. So to bring things back to ground level, I present...

Oh yeah, I'm talking about the real thing, Hormel's pride and joy since 1937, the beloved canned meat of the Hawaiian Islands... Spam®.

I haven't eaten the stuff since my Scouting days 20 years ago, when it was the high class alternative to the bargain varieties like Armour's Treet and the gritty paté version known simply as Potted Meat. At some point I grabbed a can, stuck it in the pantry, and forgot about it. A year later, I decided to go ahead and eat it, but didn't know what to fix. What dish would best show off the individual characteristics, the subtle essence that is Spam®?

Fortunately the back of the can provided the recipe for Spambled Egg Muffins. If you'll note the difficulty scale, this is much closer to watching TV than building a TV. I've actually done repair work on older televisions, and worked in a cable TV studio in high school, but when it comes to using a tricky ingredient like this you want to keep it easy. A few changes in my version: I only had shredded cheese, which I melted on the English muffins. Also, I made the eggs omelet-style so they would rest on the bread more cohesively. Since this dish is based on the classic French breakfast dish l'oeuf mcmuffin, I was tempted to use a carefully poached egg, but didn't want to stray too far from Hormel's sage advice.

How was it? Surprisingly not bad. I've had far worse from gas stations, where this style of sandwich (using ham or sausage) sits on a heating tray for hours and you have to peel the hot plastic wrap off like it's the week after a bad sunburn. I think the biggest issue was portion size--a quarter of a can of Spam® packs a considerable amount of porky flavor, and it overwhelms the rest of the sandwich. I don't know if it's possible to slice and fry slices of Spam® thinly. Perhaps chill it like a terrine first and use a hot wet carving knife? I think you might end up with something a bit closer to Italian handcrafted mortadella from Emilia-Romagna.

For those who wish to challenge the upper echelons of culinary acclaim, Spam® Musubi is the highest calling for this oft-maligned meat.

16 June 2010

The Cocktails of Sex and the City 2

I have not seen Sex and the City 2. I was a fan of the original series but I think I can wait for this one to roll around on TV in a year or so. The show was notorious for catapulting the Cosmopolitan into a nationwide phenomenon. Since everything about the second movie had to be bigger and flashier, nine signature cocktails were created for the main characters.

During our recent dinner, Lady A. had inquired about the Glamour Gal (Carrie's cocktail) and suggested I try it out. Fortunately, it happens to be the only practical recipe out of the bunch. (Really, they seem to formulated for event nights at bars and restaurants, where you can buy things like tangerine juice and rose petals in bulk.) Most of them involve flavored vodkas--I'm not keeping a dozen of those around. A few are simple Champagne cocktails but those really work best for a party. The less said about the Mr. Manhattan the better, for when its ingredients are mentioned aloud, heaven's angels look down and weep.

Let's get on with the show...

Glamour Gal
2 oz. SKYY vodka
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup or 1 tsp. sugar
Drop of Crème de Cassis

Rim a crystallized Swarovski martini glass with Crème de Cassis and sugar. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the martini glass. Finish the cocktail with a drop of Crème de Cassis on top.

Since the Swarovski martini glasses run upwards of $175 each, I felt a more pedestrian substitute would be appropriate. It may not be fully glamourous but should get the job done. Otherwise, this is a nicely balanced cocktail. Classic ingredients, fresh fruit, sweet/sour elements, and creative application of the currant liqueur. A few words of advice: you may want to add a bit more sugar to cut the edge of the citrus. Also, rimming the glass with Crème de Cassis and sugar produces a mess that runs down the outside of the glass. I skipped it for the photo because it didn't look good or positively impact the flavor of the cocktail. If you really want that purple, crusty rim, you might need to cook down the liqueur to a syrup and then dip and rim.

Overall, it is refreshing, and while not my favorite of all time, it's in the right tradition of mixology. Frankly, if you have a big enough bottle of Crème de Cassis you can just keep pouring and give it a stir, resulting in a darker but even more well balanced cocktail.

14 June 2010

Simple Summer Dinner

This is the story of another pleasant dinner with Lady A. She had no special requests this time around, so I dug back into some old favorites that I hadn't fixed in quite a while. I'll provide more details on the wines in future posts (both were parts of larger sets that I want to keep together), but for this post I wanted to focus on a truly delicious meal.

There was a time in the late 90s when you could find the spinach and strawberry salad everywhere. I don't know which caterer pioneered it but suddenly you would see this combination at every wedding rehearsal dinner, every charity function, and every lunch presentation about these crazy things called "e-mail" and "the interweb". I think people got burned out on it after a few years, but I always liked the flavor combination. Here I've got baby spinach greens, toasted pecans, sliced strawberries, thin red onion slices, shaved Romano cheese, and a homemade vinaigrette containing balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, olive oil, etc. If you put the hot pecans on right before serving and add a little sizzling bacon, the spinach will wilt just slightly. But it's a hot summer, and I kept it cold. Served with an oaky Sonoma Chardonnay.

Next up: rack of lamb. I find this cut of lamb stupidly easy to make but it's always impressive. Just don't overcook it. I actually used a toaster oven and achieved a nearly perfect medium rare. I frenched the ribs first, removing the gristle and fat. I do this only when I care about presentation, and dogs love those little scraps. There's a smear of chimichurri sauce (olive oil, parsley, mint, garlic, white wine vinegar), and finally some glazed rutabagas. I cooked the rutabagas too long--they were tender, but shrank considerably. Still tasty with a last minute dash of sea salt, brown sugar, and butter on the final part of the roasting. Served with a California Petite Sirah.

As longtime readers know, I'm happy to leave dessert to guests, and A. performed admirably in that regard. A little peach pie from the Fresh Market with a savory layer of cream cheese in it, served with the vanilla ice cream from the Häagen-Dazs Five product line. The idea is simple: just five all-natural ingredients. This contains only skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla. Pop the pie in the oven for a while to warm it up, serve it with the ice cream... perfection.

This whole meal is really my favorite kind of dining. Not huge amounts of anything, but a focus more on quality of ingredients, flavors, and balances between those flavors. The salad and dessert were both big hits, while the lamb/chimichurri combination is always a show stopper.

11 June 2010

Olson Ogden Wines

Olson Ogden is a winery based out of the Russian River Valley of Sonoma, though grapes are also sourced from Napa, Mendocino, and Dry Creek. In addition to the wines listed here, they also produce several Syrahs.

2008 Persuasion
North Coast of California.
$19, 14.5% abv.
69% Syrah, 12% Pinot Noir, 13% Grenache, 6% Marsanne
Meaty and toasty, with an undertone of berries and earth. Big tannins. Interesting blend of grapes, and this is something you'll want to pair with grilled burgers or pizza. As a side note, I can't look at the name of this wine without thinking about my least favorite Jane Austen novel. Oh, yes, even Northanger Abbey was better.

2008 Olson Ogden "Margaret's Mandate" Marsanne
Stagecoach Vineyard
$35, 14.7% abv
Melon, buttery, toffee... That slight harsh edge that makes Marsanne stand out... Practically identical to the 2008 Stagecoach Marsanne I had from Maisonry. While both wines were very similar, it does not detract from the sheer joy I had trying such a well-made example of a somewhat obscure grape. I had Marsanne with eggs and fresh fruit, with a turkey sandwich, and with a light salad. Great all around.

2008 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir
Manchester Ridge, Mendocino
$38, 14.2% abv
Plum and stewed fruit, flavor of raisins and dried cherries. Low tannins, slight bitter finish. Great fruit flavor but not a fruit bomb, well balanced. I'd like to see this one with a couple more years in the cellar, where I think it would be perfect with nice rare veal chops.

Note: These wines were received as samples from Olson Ogden.

09 June 2010

NV Hacienda Los Azteca Pretexto

During Paul's recent month-long stay south of the border, he asked me what he could bring back. Naturally I asked for a bottle of Mexican wine, and he delivered. We recently popped this open along with an appropriate meal of Cuban mojo-marinated flank steak, thoroughly seared, sliced, and served on tortillas with roasted red peppers.

The NV Hacienda Los Azteca Pretexto is a blend of the 2005 and 2006 harvests and comes from Querétaro in central Mexico, just north of Mexico City. $37, 13% abv. It is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec, and 5% Tempranillo--not unlike a lot of red blends coming out of California these days.

Definitely let this one breathe for about an hour. There's nothing wrong with it straight out of the bottle, but it really becomes sublime with a little air. There's an initial nose of blackberry jam that yields to reveal green bell pepper, fresh hay, and a touch of chocolate. Very mild and smooth with restrained blackberry flavors, and an elegant finish. This is only the second Mexican wine I've tried, but I am once again amazed. It is made much more in the spirit of Spain or southern France rather than, say, the wines of California, Chile, or Argentina. I can't speak to the Mexican wine industry as a whole but I would love to go around the US slipping these into blind tastings.

Interested in a more local perspective on this particular wine? You can read a review en español by a Mexican wine blogger, Rafa Ibarra.

07 June 2010

Maisonry Wines

Maisonry, or MA(i)SONRY in their preferred orthography, is a facility in Napa Valley that contains art and design galleries as well as specialized wine tastings showcasing the products of their winemaking partners.

All three of these screwcap-enclosed wines are made by Blackbird Vineyards, with the first two under the Maisonry marque.

2009 Maisonry Sauvignon Blanc
Hanson-Hsieh Vineyard
$32, 14.1% abv
Grapefruit peel and pith, nice balance between crisp and round. Little bit of lime peel and nice minerality on the palate. There's a soft and easy finish to it. While there's a good bit of fruit here, it's not overpowering. Serve with a simple roast chicken with lemon and rosemary and nice crispy skin.

2008 Maisonry Marsanne
Stagecoach Vineyard
$38, 14.5% abv
Alluring, slightly musky nose with an exotic melon aspect. I also got some rose petals, and there's a toffee element to the flavor while remaining bone dry. You don't get to try a lot of Marsanne on its own, so this was a real pleasure. As it is very low in acidity, it might be fun to pair this with something tart like very ripe strawberries and a sharp blue cheese. Marsanne will never be as popular as Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, but tasting it solo will help you understand the role that it plays in balancing out white Rhone blends. Highly recommended.

2009 Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste Rosé
Napa Valley
$24, 13.5% abv
58% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc
Aroma of dried cherries with a very subtle tomato leaf undertone. As this is a classic Bordeaux blend, it's got some serious depth and balance, with flavors that incorporate cherry, fig, cream, toast, and many other elements. If you ever wanted to convert a red wine lover to rosé, this would be an excellent choice. Unlike some wines that might be charitably described as "Kitchen Sink Pink" (and I love some of those), this is made in a very old world style, and has a certain level of dignity and class to it. While I'm sure there is a perfect pairing from the French countryside, I found that a chicken salad sandwich on good wheat bread with red leaf lettuce was a delightful accompaniment.

Note: These wines were received as a sample from the winery.

04 June 2010

Shiner 101

I think every beer lover is excited that Shiner has continued its anniversary series with the release of Shiner 101. This Czech-style Pilsner was created to celebrate the 101st birthday of the venerable Texas brewery. $7/6 pack, 4.6% abv.

Slightly bitter with a hint of an orange peel edge to it. There's an earthy, musky element from the Saaz hops. Bitter finish and lingering aftertaste. This one screams out for barbecue, even if it is that roasted beef stuff they make down in Texas. (I kid, I kid... I love brisket and there are some Memphis BBQ joints where I actually prefer it to the pulled pork or ribs.) The bitterness and rougher flavors will play well against the sweet/acidic sauces, but it's not too heavy for summertime drinking.

Pilsner gets a bad rap at times because it's the ancestor of American lager, the dominant style of Budweiser/Coors/Miller. I've had a few imports from Czech Republic and once you've had a real Pils, you lose your taste for the pale imitation. Since the Shiner 101 is brewed using Bohemian Hana barley and the aforementioned Saaz hops, it's about as authentic a Pilsner as you're likely to get from a domestic brewery.

02 June 2010

2003 Santo Wines Vinsanto

UPDATE: There's a comment below with more detail from Jeremy Parzen about the disambiguation between Vin Santo and Vinsanto. He further elaborated on the topic in a separate blog post with far more detail. I'd encourage you to check it out for some solid research that clears up a lot of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the two products.

* * *

Vin Santo/Vinsanto is more more of a style of wine than a protected trademark, so it's made in a few different places under various monikers. In general you take white grapes and let them dry on straw mats until they resemble raisins, then make a sweet dessert wine from the concentrated, sugary juice. (Contrast to Sauternes, Tokaji, and Trockenbeerenauslese, where noble rot dries and shrivels the grapes while still on the vine.) The style most likely originated around Tuscany, where there are a wide range of protected DOCs with specific regional names.

Once again courtesy of Constance, this is the 2003 Santo Wines Vinsanto from the Greek island of Santorini. $40/500mL, 11% abv. It's a blend of
75% Ασύρτικο/Assyrtiko and 25% Αηδάνι/Aidani. It has a rich copper hue to it, and due to seven years of aging, there are some thick chunks of sediment down at the bottom. (The back of the bottle contains an explanation for the sediment, and you'll want to decant carefully when serving.) We served it chilled, but I think it holds up well near room temperature. Just don't let it get too warm.

Beautiful aroma of golden raisins and brandy, with deep flavors of stewed fruit. It has firm acidity which balances nicely against the sweetness. I shared this with a group of friends who had differing levels of wine experience, and it was well-received. Despite the fact that it reminded a lot of people of brandy, it's only 11% alcohol and thus is a lighter option for an after-dinner drink. Vin Santo definitely goes great with a selection of cheeses. We used Stilton and Brie, the latter having been roasted and topped with macadamia nuts and honey by my brother.

I didn't start keeping notes on wines until 2004, and the blog didn't start until 2005. But I do have a few odds and ends in old journals, and I can state authoritatively that the first time I had Vin Santo was on December 23, 1996 at a little trattoria in Siena with a college girlfriend. I had no idea what it was, and just picked something at random off the dessert list. I knew it meant "saint wine", or "holy wine", but didn't know if that referred to a soaked cake or a wine-based custard or what. (You never know with dessert names. Shoofly pie and snickerdoodle lend zero information about their contents, to grab two random American examples.) What we got was a bottle of Vin Santo, little thimble-sized glasses, and tiny biscotti called cantuccini. Pour some of the wine, dip the cantuccini, enjoy. Much better than dipping cookies in milk or coffee, I assure you.

* * *

Quick Greek lesson from the label: the tagline says "Οίνος Φυσικώς Γλυκός - Λιαστός"

οίνος = oinos = wine (the study of wine is called "oenology" because of this)

φυσικώς = physikos = natural (physics is the "natural science")

γλυκός = glukos = sweet (which is where we get the simple sugar "glucose")

λιαστός = liastos = sun dried (this comes from helios, meaning sun, like how plants and scantily-clad beach babes are heliotropic because they turn towards the sun)

So the translation right below is almost word for word. "Naturally sweet wine from sun dried grapes." Never hurts to learn some Greek, even if there's the challenge of a different alphabet. And hey, this wine would go great with a nice warm slice of π.

Note: This was received as a sample from Santo Wines.