Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Red Wine and Coke?

by Maureen C. Petrosky

Somehow summer has slipped by, and just last weekend we finally got together with one of our favorite couples for a drink. On a whim, we decided to do cocktails instead of usual bottle of wine. With the abundance of blueberries still in the fridge, I was intrigued by the idea of blueberry vodka. We poured it over ice with club soda and a squeeze of lemon or lime and enjoyed a refreshing, light, and definitely blueberry-tasting sip.

With all the wine in my world I often forget how much I enjoy the rituals of consuming a cocktail. From the shakers right down to the clink of the ice, we all agreed it's just as much fun as swirling and sniffing. The topic of cocktails stopped my friend in her tracks and, dead seriously, she said, "I've been meaning to ask you something... A friend of mine said mixing red wine and Coca-Cola is all the rage in Europe, and I knew you would be able to tell me this isn't true!" I couldn't help but smile. As you know, I was recently running around the south of France tasting tons of offerings from bubbles to stickies and lots and lots of Grenache ( a red grape that struts its stuff in the Sud du France). It wasn't until the very last night of my trip that we dined with a twenty- something who was working to help educate us Americans about the Sud du France.

Let me back up here. Sud du France is the new name for marketing the Languedoc- Rousillion region of the south of France. While it is a lot easier for us to say, it still causes a little bit of confusion. Sud du France means south of France. It's not beer or soap as some have thought. In fact, it is simply an umbrella name for the loads of delicious bargains spilling from this region. Our guide represented a part of the future of French wine and I wanted his insight. So I asked him what music he listened to, and what he and his friends drank. There's no doubt he truly loved wine and knew how lucky he was to be in a place that had an abundance of delicious juice for him to drink. He also liked heavy rock, and some of his friends still prefer beer--in fact, he almost sounded like an American twentysomething. Until he mentioned that lots of his friends enjoyed wine cocktails like... red wine and coke! So this trend is alive and well. But I was more surprised that the idea isn't actually a trend, it's been around the block. Mixing 50% red wine and 50% coke is called a Kalimotxo in the Basque region of Spain; in other parts of Spain it's Rioja libre. In Chile the drink is known as jote, and in Bosnia, and Croatia it's sometimes called a Musolini. The list goes on and on. From South Africa to Germany and so on, this wine cocktail has plenty of names.

So I started mixing a few to find out which reds really work with coke. I found that the luscious Grencahe was indeed the perfect fit for this mix. In fact, when shaking up yours, be sure to choose a red that can take the chill. Beaujolais and Rhone reds work too but Grenache packs in the fruit, resulting in an adult version of cherry coke. In particular, the reds from a winery that is technically in the Sud du France but lies at the base of the Rhone region-Chateau d’Or et de Gueules rock when mixed with Coca-Cola over a glass packed with ice. The winery from which this hails is full of art from up-and-coming talents, and the winemaker is a hip chick who handles grapes as gracefully as some girls do their Gucci bags. Like a great pair of shoes, she makes wines that are fashionable yet functional. At about $15/ bottle, this Grenache from Chateau d’Or et de Gueules is delicious on its own or lovely with a chill on one of the last of these hot summer days. As part of this wine-tail it's also ideal for tailgating and sipping with friends on the first of fall's cool evenings. So next time you’re toasting with friends, grab your shaker and mix it up a bit.

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