Tag Archives: white wine

What to do with all those gift wines?

Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going!

Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless.

Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be).

A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust.

Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such a thing as letting such collections grow too big.

I have a friend who believed that when people said that wines grow better with age, he literally thought they meant any wine from any vineyard. We took a look at his “collection” one day before a party he was hosting.

Nearly all were gift wines from various dates. He did well to lay them down and store them on their side in a rack (to keep the wine in contact with the cork). A few were expired (yes, ordinary, everyday wine will expire) and had to be tossed out. Many were okay. A few years ago, his brother dropped off several bottles of Le Fade Vigna del Doge, a decent kind of everyday red wine from Dele Venezie, Italy. I recognized it as the type that sidewalk cafes serve for midday meals. The corks were okay, and the contents were still clear.

Most of this collection were not the types of wine I’d want to serve straight from the bottle at a party as I would with ones from a favorite vineyard.

But, there are things you can do with these random wines, even those over-sweet and barely drinkable cheap bottles, that can keep the conversations going at a party that’s already in full swing. It’s a little trick that makes them useful at just about any gathering, and it makes almost any wine reasonably tasty in a glass (despite themselves). What I’m talking about are wine spritzers.

No recipe needed.

We poured the wine into tumblers over ice (something you would NEVER do with a good bottle). We filled each glass to about ¾ full. Use a LOT of ice or one big rock of ice. Then we topped the glasses with a splash of sparkling water, but make sure you use an unflavored variety otherwise it will completely change the flavor and you might be really unhappy with the result. You can use seltzer or your favorite club soda depending on your preferences. By the way, do you know the difference between a seltzer, sparkling water, and a club soda? There are subtle distinctions that aficionados of bubbly water recognize. But, that’s for another post.

Finally, give each glass a big squeeze of fresh citrus. For a fancy touch, garnish with a slice, wedge, something of peeled citrus. And keep some Angostura bitters on hand for guests who want to kill any cloying sweetness.

Doesn’t that sound delicious? It is. Check out my Gift Wine video to see how easy it is up close.

Now for the strategy to this idea. Hold your wine spritzers for the second-half of your party. By this time, you’ve already served the special wines you planned for the party but you’re just not ready for everyone to leave. No worries! Your guests have warmed up to each other and are more focused on the conversation. The spritzer gives them something that’s light and easy to sip between fists of nuts and laughing.

And you can thank those random gift bottles of wine for the extra fun.

Enjoy frozen grapes marinated in wine

Frozen grapes marinated in wine

If you love frozen grapes, you’re going to absolutely swoon when you try this idea.

One of my favorite summer treats is frozen grapes. I love them, don’t you? They’re so easy to do – clean them, dry them, place them on a dish or pan, stick them into a freezer and then once frozen just store in a Ziploc! They’re really a great snack on hot days like the ones we’ve been having lately here in Beverly Hills.

Moms all over the world freeze grapes for their families. You can take them on camping trips, to the beach, to a game, or just have them around the house for whenever. My mom experimented with other fruits you can freeze, like watermelons, bananas, and applesauce. Freezing fruits is a fabulous snack for the kids, but how about a frozen treat just for the adults?

I found an answer on JulieBlanner.com, which is a great site to go for fun recipes and gift ideas.

I tried it out on my latest video. It’s very easy, and you can have fun sipping wine and snacking on grapes while you’re preparing them.

  1. Pick your grapes and wash them (common sense, right?).
  2. Damp dry and de-stem the grapes; place the destemmed grapes into a bowl.
  3. Pick a wine that you love and pour it over the grapes. In my video, I used red seedless grapes with Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley from the Hess Collection. But you can try this with white grapes and your favorite champagne or Prosecco, which is Italian white sparkling wine (spumante, frizzante, or tranquillo).
  4. Allow the grapes to marinate in the refrigerator for about 12 hours, or longer if you like.
  5. Drain the grapes and roll them in sugar while still damp with wine
  6. Set the sugared grapes out in a single layer on a tray or pan.
  7. Place the prepped grapes into your freezer for at least 2 hours.
  8. Serve them in a beautiful serving bowl for your guests as a snack.

One more cool little tip! You can add your grapes to a glass of wine to keep it cool. I’d serve them with the same wine that you used for the marinade. This idea is lots of fun with white frozen grapes and a glass of champagne!

Have fun!

Home Entertaining Tip – How to speed-chill a bottle of white wine

Fran Berger speed-chill wine

Guests on the way? Forgot to chill the wine? Here’s an old restaurant trick that will get you chilled wine in 15 minutes FLAT.

A restaurant – an excellent restaurant – will never have a shortage of good wine chilled to the correct temperature dictated by decades of tradition and agreement among experts. The sommelier (someone educated in all things “wine” and the person in charge of the wine ‘vault’) will know that red wine should be chilled to 55°F (12°C) and white chilled to 45°F (7°C). Unofficially, the sommelier knows a bottle must be chilled to the customer’s taste. On rare occasions, a customer may say, “I’d like this bottle chilled more.” As we say in the restaurant business, the customer is always right.

But, let’s pause here.

There are several calculations we keep in the back of our minds when we open a restaurant for business. One of them is that it takes about 2 hours for a bottle of wine to reach its ideal temperature in a standard restaurant refrigerator. You can shave off about an hour in the freezer. That’s it – no way to change the laws of thermodynamics when chilling a bottle in ambient air temperature. Given that the average customer is usually done with their meal in about 1.5 hours, sticking a bottle into a refrigerator or freezer won’t work. Worse yet, bottles that have already been chilled will get cooler, but at a significantly slower rate. I’m told that also has something to do with thermodynamics.

So, what do you do?

This is such a simple trick, it’s amazing. On those rare moments when a bottle has to be chilled more – or let’s say that you have guests coming and you forgot to put that bottle in the fridge! What do you do?

Just add salt to your bucket of ice water!

You think I’m joking, right? I’m not! You probably already know that putting wine in a bucket of ice and cold water, rather than just ice, will chill the bottle faster. But did you know that adding salt to the mix further speeds up the cooling time? Salt reduces the freezing point of water and allows the water to get to a lower temperature or colder without turning into ice, which in turn chills your wine more quickly.

Next, be sure to spin the bottle!

Maybe you didn’t expect that one either, but spinning the bottle occasionally will help the water/ice/salt method work more efficiently. Place your precious Sauv Blanc into the water so that you cover most of the ‘shoulder’ (where the bottle narrows to the ‘neck’) of the bottle. Keep the bucket nearby and gently spin the bottle in the ice water mixture every couple of minutes.

Why does this work? First, the cold water/ice is far more efficient than cold air. Direct contact with the entire surface of the glass bottle helps the wine chill. Also, by turning the bottle, you move around the contents inside, allowing more wine to come into contact with the cold glass, chilling it faster. From room temp to a good “chill” – this method takes about 15 minutes to work. See? I told you this was simple.

Keep in mind that this method works best for non-sparkling wines. If you try this method with a bottle of Champagne, don’t spin the bottle (you can GENTLY turn it) or you and your guests will be in for a little shock when you pop open the bottle!

Enjoy!