Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Brachetto and Cherries




At the midweek tasting this week I am pouring an utterly gorgeous wine from Piedmont, the Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG I Ronchetti from Casa Martelletti.

Brachetto, a grape varietal native to the Piedmont region, produces a light, bubbly, sweet red wine prized for its fragrance and fruity, refreshing taste. Fashionable in the nineteenth-century, Brachetto almost disappeared in the twentieth-century, replaced in the vineyards by the more productive Barbera. Fortunately a handful of Piemonte growers stuck to it, and by the late twentieth-century a revival was on the way.

Yesterday, I was tasting the Brachetto with a group of customers, including my friend Ben, whose knowledge and instinct on wine and food have always inspired me. Brachetto ranges in flavors from light strawberries to a dark cherry and plum style like the I Ronchetti. We were all captivated by it and everyone left the store with a bottle in tow, including Ben (2 bottles). The fragrance was like fading rose petals. Its ethereal effervescence made the fruity flavors dance in the mouth. A really joyful wine.

I love sipping it as aperitif with fresh stone-fruits like apricots and white peaches. Ben suggested pairing with sauteed or poached salmon. I also like to drink Brachetto after a big meal. Light and low in alcohol, its pure, fresh flavors invigorate the palate.

The Brachetto made us think about the wonderful cherries in season right now. For the past few weeks I've been coming early to our local farmers' market to shop for cherries. If there were a cherry vintage chart, this year and last year would be 100 points.

My favorite are Bing cherries, named for an Oregonian Chinese-American who helped develop the cultivar. Large, plump, and sweet, Bings are the king of cherries. Ben said to put them in iced water to make them extra crunchy. When I got home last night I did just that. Immersed in iced water for twenty minutes or so, the Bings firmed up and crackled in my mouth as I bit into each one. The thick flesh teasingly released a sweet, refreshing juice that made me remember the cool glass of fizzy Brachetto I enjoyed earlier in the day.

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