April 2015

Unknown Spirits: Cachaca


If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean or South America, you’d know the variations on rum are seemingly endless. While most “rum”  uses molasses as its base material, the Brazilian hooch named Cachaca is unique in that it is made from the first pressing of sugar cane juice. The result is a grassy and fresh rum that is best in the national cocktail “Caipirinha”.


Unknown Spirits: Mezcal


In the deep south of Mexico lies a handful of states that have been producing an agave based spirit that has historically been out shadowed by its cousin of the north, Tequila. While seven states are approved for production, the state of Oaxaca is the spiritual and cultural home. Here, artisanal Mezcal has been produced for centuries, and is finally giving the so-hot-right-now Tequila a run for its money.


Unknown Spirits: Grappa


Grappa has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a simple farmer’s drink, and the average cost of a bottle nowadays reflects that. But, it wasn’t always so, in fact you would probably have a hell of a time tracking a bottle of the stuff down in your local store 10 or 20 years ago.


Unknown Spirits: Arak


Despite alcohol being strictly forbidden in the Muslim world, the production of Arak in the Middle East has continued due to the large populations of Christians living there. Although the other aniseed spirits like Ouzo and Sambuca are more popular, Arak is the much purer expression of the Mediterranean and these flavours.


Unknown Spirits: Pisco


Deep in South America, two countries have been fighting for the sole rights of the name. Chile and Peru may have been making it for hundreds of years under the same name, but they each produce a wildly different spirit – the infamous Pisco.


Spain vs. Sardinia: Grenache / Garnacha / Cannonau


Wrapping up the series on grapes with 100 names in 100 different places, leaving us with a real underdog: Grenache. Technically, as it is a Spanish grape I should call it Garnacha, but the fact remains the same. Overlooked in most major wine regions its grown in, Garnacha is the unsung hero of many famous blends (Chateauneuf-du-Pape anyone?) that can’t get no respect. (more…)

Italy vs. California: Primitivo/Zinfandel

zinfandel primitivo

Long before wine spritzers and “white zinfandel”, before Zinfandel table grapes and California missionaries, there was Primitivo di Manduria. But, even before then, there was Crljenak Kastelanski from Croatia, which was recently found to be the daddy of the Primitivo/Zinfandel duo we know so well in North America.


Germany vs. France: Riesling


I know what you’re thinking, and no, not all Riesling is sweet. If you take one thing from this article it should be that. Aside from this, this fine grape has been in the middle of a tug of war between Germany and France for centuries. Originally it is from Germany, but like any border region, Alsace has cherry picked all the good German stuff and kept it.