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How to Open a Wine Bottle

Even though screwcapped wines are on the rise, you still should know how to properly open a bottle of wine the traditional way. After all, there’s nothing like the romantic ritual of pulling the cork from a bottle. Corks aren’t going out of style any time soon, which means you’ll always need at least one wine opener at home — especially if you want to enjoy the range of Mazzoni wines.

There’s more than half a dozen styles of wine openers available to use — from traditional corkscrews to the friendlier electric wine openers — but which is best all depends on your own preferences. Explore the major styles below to find the one that’s right for you.shutterstock_214100599

Twist & Pull Corkscrew

This is what many consider to be the “basic corkscrew” — and the first corkscrew patented, by Samuel Henshall, in England in 1795. The “twist and pull” method may sound simple, but this wine opener can be difficult to use, and definitely not a foolproof way to uncork a bottle of wine.

The Winged “Butterfly” Corkscrew

Perhaps the most popular wine opener in American kitchens, this double lever “wing” corkscrew has been around since the late 1800s. It isn’t the worst way to open your wine, but I’ve often found it has its flaws. The screw part of the device too often shreds apart even well made corks, so I’ve thrown mine away.

The Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew

This is the most versatile, affordable, and reliable corkscrew there is. If you’re a serious wino, you need one of these. My favorite waiter’s friend variation has a double-hinge to helps you get better leverage when removing a cork. Most come with a small knife for removing foil, and this method leaves little trace of having been used on the cork. It requires moderate skill, but after a few bottles of practice you’ll be a pro!

The “Bunny Ears” Lever Corkscrew

This wine opener has grown in popularity over the years because it’s so easy to use. Two handles wrap around the neck of the bottle, and a third handle is used to pull a lever over the top of the neck. With a simple push and pull open of the lever, you’ve done the “hard” work of uncorking the bottle. This single lever wine opener may require minimal effort, but you need maximum space to store them, so it’s not the best option if you’re low on drawer space like me.

Electric Wine Opener

It doesn’t get much easier than this. With the push of a button, these electric corkscrews do all the pulling and uncorking for you. It’s especially helpful if you have weak wrists or encounter difficulty when opening things. Just be sure to keep it charged!

And what if you need to open a bottle of wine but don’t have access to any corkscrew? Well, people have opened bottles with knives, scissors, and even with their shoes, but I wouldn’t recommend any of that. Always stick with a wine opener. If you don’t have one already, now is the time to go buy a waiter’s friend corkscrew. They’re inexpensive and versatile, and small enough to fit in your pocket wherever you go.

How Italians Celebrate Spring Holidays

Every year, on January 6, my father reminded us: “Pasqua Epifania tutte le feste porta via” (Epiphany carries away all the holidays). In Italy, the holidays don’t end on New Year’s Day (Capodanno): we celebrate Epiphany, or, to be precise, la Befana, the old lady wrapped in a shawl who rides a broomstick and fills children’s socks with candies or pieces of coal. Schools reopen on January 7, and Christmas tree decorations and nativity scene figurines are put away until next year.

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via Natalie Rae 

The saying my father recited had a second part, which varies based on geographic location. In his native village (north of Rome) it was something like: “poi revè Sant’Antognetto e ne reporta ‘n saccoccetto” (then comes Saint Anthony and brings a pocketful). The feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of domestic animals, is celebrated on January 17.

I never traveled with my father to his village for the feast, but I remember he always brought back some of the local traditional ciambella all’anice, a ring-shaped, lightly sweetened yeasted bread flavored with anise seeds that was first boiled then baked. My father loved to end his meal with a piece of the ciambella dipped in wine.

The pocketful of holidays mentioned in the saying refer to Carnival, a festive period that ends on Martedì grasso (Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. The exception to this is the archdiocese of Milan, which follows a different calendar where Lent starts the following Sunday, so people in Milan and surrounding areas hold the big end-of-Carnival party on Saturday.

Frappe (also called chiacchiere, cenci, bugie, crostoli and other names, depending on the region), strufoli, castagnole, tortelli di Carnevale are just a sample of the traditional sweets made during Carnival. They are all rather rich, fried and doused in honey or sprinkled with powdered vanilla sugar (zucchero vanigliato). Carnival is traditionally a time of indulgence before the somber 40 days of Lent. It is also the time when children and adults dress up in costumes, which can be lavish, as in the famous Carnevale di Venezia.

When my father was a teenager, he and his friends had to make the best of Carnival parties, because dancing was not allowed during Lent. Events held in the local school were easy to attend. A party in another village meant figuring out how to get there and back without public transportation or a car. Often, they walked for miles late at night to get back home.

One feast I looked forward to as a child occurred during Carnival but was not related to it. On January 29 my hometown of Perugia smells sweet due to pastry shops and people baking the traditional torcolo di san Costanzo, a ring-shaped yeasted cake studded with raisins, candied citron and pine nuts, and lightly flavored with anise seeds. Perugia has three patron saints, including Saint Constantius (probably the first bishop of the city). The torcolo di San Costanzo is so popular that some pastry shops bake it year-round. That did not diminish the pleasure of getting our fill of torcolo on its special day.

Torcolo_san_costanzo

via Wikipedia

The 40 days of Lent are an important period in the Catholic Church. By the time I came to experience it, fasting was no longer required and other precepts were relaxed. My family observed meatless Friday (abstinence) pretty regularly during the year, hence doing it during Lent was not much of a change. In Italy we call this “fare vigilia” (abstinence on the eve of a holy day).

My mother did not have specific Lenten dishes in her repertoire, but prepared variations of our usual Friday meals: spaghetti col tonno, which were a must on Christmas Eve, frittata wish seasonal vegetables, like artichokes, or hard-boiled eggs plus canned tuna and mackerel. Every now and then, she prepared baccalà (salt cod) with tomato sauce, prunes and raisins.

There are cookies called quaresimali in an otherwise rather bare landscape, since sweets by definition are to be eschewed during Lent. One exception is zeppole di San Giuseppe, pastries filled with custard that are made on March 19, the day the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Italy celebrates Father’s Day.

I remember Lent more as a passage, from the bright lights of Christmas and the other winter Holidays to the arrival of spring and the celebration of Easter. But that is a story for next month. In the meantime, enjoy days getting longer!

6a00d835508b1869e201a511871f44970c-150wiWith a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.

Mazzoni Wines Applauded by Sommelier Sara Lehman

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via Somm in the City

This January, Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci visited the United States to present his wines in a series of tastings, including a luncheon at Ai Fiori in New York City. Joining him at this event was Sara Lehman, author of the blog, Somm in the City.

Praising Alessandro for his “charm, passion, and knowledge of food and wine pairings,” Lehman also lauded the wines themselves, saying:

“The Pinot Grigio’s acidity paired beautifully with the creaminess of the soup…notes of citrus and minerality make this Pinot Grigio one of my top favorites of all time!”

Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay quickly became a highlight as well:

“This wine was striking with tropical fruit notes…I will admit, I fell in love with the Vermentino blend and absolutely could picture this as a perfect poolside wine, brunch wine, or daily spring/summer sip.”

To read Lehman’s full review, click here.

The Great Wine Glass Debate: What Should You Drink Mazzoni Out Of?

If you’ve ever set out to buy a new set of wine glasses, you’re already familiar with the abundance of options available. There are an overwhelming number of styles and shapes to choose from — crystal or glass, with stems or without, clear or colored. And don’t forget about the wine glasses designed for specific grape varieties. Do you really need a special Pinot Noir glass to enjoy a glass of it?

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via Riedel

I remember when the Austrian glassware company, Riedel, released a new wine glass specifically designed to drink Malbec out of a few years ago. I was intrigued by the idea. I’m not generally a big drinker of Malbec — at least not the ones from Argentina. Often, I find them too high in alcohol and hot on the nose, with super ripe fruity aromas that aren’t always pleasing. But maybe this new Malbec glass could change that, I thought.

It didn’t. At least, not all that much. I compared the same wine poured into three different glasses — the new Malbec glass, the glass I usually drink reds from, and my typical white wine glass. The experience of drinking the wine in the Malbec glass and my usual red wine glass were nearly identical, but I learned that I should stick to drinking only whites from the other one.

So does it really matter what you drink your wine out of? Well…yes and no.

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You should certainly be drinking wine out of wine glasses. If you were to pour the same wine in a water glass and another in a wine glass, I assure you that you’d notice the difference in aromas and flavors.

The first thing you need to know when picking out a wine glass is to always stick with clear glasses so you are able to observe a wine’s color. While you don’t need a specific glass for Cabernet, another for Pinot Noir, and one more for Chardonnay, some wine glass shapes are better suited for certain wines. I use a Cabernet Sauvignon glass for all reds, and a Chardonnay glass for my whites, which I also drink my sparkling wines from. No need for a flute!

Almost important as having a set of good everyday wine glasses is serving wine at the right temperature. If the wine is too hot, the smell of alcohol will be overpowering, no matter what glass you ultimately end up pouring it into. And for the same reason, be sure to drink your wine from wine glasses that have stems. Those trendy stemless tumblers may be fun, but your hand gripped around them warms whatever is inside.

In the end, you don’t need to worry so much about having the perfect wine glass for your specific bottle. As long as you aren’t sipping your wine from a red Solo cup or mason jar, you’re already doing something right.

Shelby Vittek Shelby Vittek is an award-winning food, wine, and travel writer, and a current contributor at Terroirist.com. She provides accessible, approachable wine reviews and education for Live Like An Italian.

Authentic Italian Recipe: Peperoni al Forno con Patate

These delicious baked bell peppers are a simple Mediterranean dish coming from the Sicilian and Ligurian regions.

I love to serve them to my guests, not only because they are so colorful, but because they get so excited anticipating what’s inside. I surprise them with different ingredients stuffed inside each time.

The aroma when they are being baked fills the kitchen especially when they are filled with ground turkey then seasoned with breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil…but also when they are only stuffed with just rice or only with cheese.

It’s such a versatile dish and can be made for meat-eaters or vegetarians alike. Delicious and easy to make, these remind me of being at my Mama’s dinner table back home.

Authentic Italian Tip: You may think of Pepperoni as the spiced salami that goes on pizza, but Peperoni actually means bell peppers!

Francesco

Peperoni al Forno con Patate

Serves 8

Pair with Mazzoni Barbera

Ingredients

4 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow, each cut in half)

1 small green bell pepper (finely diced)

1 Pound ground turkey

4 Tablespoons Pecorino Romano (grated)

3 Tablespoons breadcrumbs (heaping)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley (finely chopped)

1 Large potato (thinly sliced using a mandoline)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 can San Marzano tomatoes (well chopped)

Directions

For the potatoes:

Slice the potato into 1/4-inch slices using a mandoline. Transfer to a large shallow pan and coat generously with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and bake at 400º for 20 to 25 minutes.

Preparation:

In a large skillet sauté olive oil and garlic for approximately 1 minute on medium-low. Add the San Marzano tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet heat olive oil and add turkey. Add the finely diced green bell pepper and brown the turkey for approximately 7 minutes, stirring continuously.

Cut in half vertically the bell peppers keeping the stem, discard the seeds.

In a baking pan spoon the tomato sauce on the bottom and add the bell peppers with the hollow sides facing upward.

In a bowl mix the browned turkey, 4 tablespoons of the tomato sauce, breadcrumbs, Pecorino Romano, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Cover with aluminum foyer and bake for 45 minutes, remove aluminum foyer and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the peppers are tender.

Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle the top with the remaining Pecorino Romano, garnish with the sliced potatoes.

Buon Appetito!

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.

How Italians Fall in Love

 

With the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.

The international language of amore requires no translation, but how exactly do Italians fall in love?

On Valentine’s Day, many couples will gift each other baci, a chocolate “kiss.” But every other day of the year? Here is how Italians do love- from dating, to meeting the family, and saying “I Do”:

Coffee

Ask for directions:  While you will still hear calls of “ciao bella” down the street, a more popular pickup line is to ask for directions.  Online dating has yet to become a popular way to meet future beaus in Italy, so asking for a bit of help gives you an excuse to approach the object of your affection and strike up a conversation. Once you have the directions you probably didn’t need in the first place, you can offer to buy him/her a caffè.

First date: Forget the cinema, most Italian first dates involve a walk and a bit of conversation.  Inviting your crush on a passeggiata, and maybe a gelato, means you don’t have to commit to a fancy dinner or drinks up front. If things go well, you will eventually become “fidanzati,” or boyfriend and girlfriend.  However, if you want to continue to woo your beloved, you better download Whatsapp.  The popular messaging service is how friends AND lovers keep in touch through out the day.

Meeting the parents: If things are getting serious, you will have to take a deep breath and meet the family.  When dating, you go to the parents, rather than waiting for them to come to you. While it might be more comfortable to meet on neutral ground like a restaurant, more often than not you will be driving out to mama’s house to eat a home cooked meal.  Praise your beloved to his or her parents and clean your plate of all you’re served if you want to make a good impression.

Vineyard wedding

Next come marriage: Italian weddings begin with the civil ceremony, but only after announcements have been made in newspapers and other public forums to allow time for any objections to be aired.  For many couples, the city hall wedding is the main service, while others will plan for a large church wedding days or even weeks after. Regardless of the ceremony type, the meal is the real event. Think multi-courses, with food and wine flowing all night.  At the end, send the happy couple sends guests home with even more treats – confetti (sugar coated almonds).

 

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.

Polpette Recipe: An Update to Italian Meatballs

Meatballs are served as a main dish or in soups all throughout Italy. Almost every country in the world has their own version of a meatballItalian-Americans created their own main dish of meatballs served with spaghetti, which is something I had never seen before in Italy.
With this recipe, I remembered how much I loved these little treats that Mama used to make for me when I was a boy, so I wanted to create something with a little surprise in the middle, that would be fun and delicious for both kids and adults.

Francesco

Panfried meatballs are an Italian classic made with beef and/or pork, with Pecorino Romano, parsley and garlic and breadcrumbs. With this recipe, I made them into small oval shapes and filled them with fresh mozzarella, so when you bite into them, they ooze out with the creamy cheese. Served with an arugula and tomato salad, it’s a perfect Italian dinner that your whole family will love. If you are having a cocktail party, you can pierce each little polpette with a small skewer and serve them as a bite size appetizer. Enjoy this delicious and versatile staple of Italian cuisine.

Buon Appetito!

Francesco 2

Francesco 3

Polpette

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serve with: Mazzoni Rosso di Toscana

Ingredients:
  1. 1 pound ground beef
  2. 1 clove garlic minced
  3. 2 cups of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  4. 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1 tsp kosher salt
  8. 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  9. 4 Tbs Extra-Virgin olive oil
  10. 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, cubed
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all the ingredients above except for the olive oil and mozzarella.
  2. Using your hands, roll the meat into golf ball sized meatballs. With your finger make a hole in the center and place a cube of mozzarella.
  3. Cover the cheese with the remaining meat, and shape into an oval.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.
  5. Fry the meatball for about 3 minutes on each side. Until meatballs are golden brown.
  6. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.

Note: Eat them while they’re hot! 

 

Francesco Influenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.

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