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Features for Distinguished Handcrafters

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Finely Handcrafted
since 1996

Volume 1, Issue 7
November 2006

In this Month's Issue:
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Tasting Wine Recipe for Irish Porter Monthly Food Recipe


Tasting Wine

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Wine Tasting Component I: Look

The first step you have to undertake in wine tasting is visual.

1. Fill up the glass up to 1/3 of its volume; never fill it more than half;

2. Hold the glass by the stem. Initially you may find this too pretentious but there are good reasons for it:
а) by doing it this way you can actually observe the wine in it;
b) this will keep your fingerprints off the bowl;
c) the heat from your palm will not change the temperature of the wine.
There’s a good saying by one of the greatest French wine lovers, Emil Painot: Offer someone a glass of wine and you can immediately tell whether he/she is a connoisseur by the way they hold the glass.” Even though you may not think of yourself as a connoisseur, you could still learn how to hold the wine glass.

3. Focus on the color intensity and the transparency of the liquid.
a) the color of the wine, and more specifically its nuances, are best observed on a white background.
b) the wine’s intensity is best judged by holding the glass without slanting it and looking at the liquid from above;

4. Next comes the swirling of the glass. This can also seem too pretentious or even dangerous if you have a full glass or a white top. But this movement is important since it prepares you for the next step in wine tasting – the Taste. The easiest way to swirl the glass is to place it on a table or other even surface, and to swirl your hand while holding the glass by the stem. Swirl hard and have the wine almost touch the rim of the glass. Then stop. The wine leaves tiny traces with irregular shapes on the inside of the glass. Some “experts” then read them with as much zeal as coffee-tellers. The truth is however, that they are just an indicator for the quality of the wine – the more alcohol a wine has, the more wine traces it forms.

What does the color of the wine tell us? The wine’s color tells us many things about its character.

First, the color shows the grape variety. Let’s take two popular varieties as examples – cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Cabernet’s grapes are smaller, with a thicker and darker skin than those of pinot noir. As a result, the color of wines made from cabernet sauvignon is usually described as violet to dark while the color of wines made from pinot noir is associated with ruby.

Second, the color is influenced by the climatic conditions. A hot summer and dry fall result in ripe grapes, with a dark, intense color. A cold summer and rainy fall will produce undeveloped grapes with a lighter color.

Third, wine-making practices also have an influence on the color of wine. For red wine, the grapes are fermented with the skin. Since the coloring agents are in the grape skin, and not in the juice, the longer the process of maceration, i.e. the longer the skin stays with the juice, the darker the wine color will be.

Fourth, the process of wine aging also has an influence on the color of wine. The young red wines are rich in coloring agents and that makes their color denser and fuller. In the course of time chemical reactions take place in the bottle and sediment is formed at the bottom. The wine’s color gets lighter and is often described as brick or amber.

Let’s go through an example: you pour yourself a glass of red wine and after carefully observing it, you notice a full granite color, good density, and not so good transparency. What conclusions can you draw?

Well, you can safely say that the wine is:
- from cabernet sauvignon grapes;
- from a Southern region;
- relatively young;
- from a good yield;
- that the wine-maker has gone for a good long maceration.

If you know the wine, compare what you know with what you see: maybe the wine has a very full color and the yield has been bad – this speaks of a good wine-making technique; or maybe the wine is too pale for its age – this speaks for undeveloped grape or poor wine-making technique.

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Recipe for Irish Porter   
by Frank Holes, Sr.

This dark, robust Porter is perfect for relaxing in front of your fireplace on cold, autumn nights.  
Recipe for Irish Porter

2 gallons of good water

1/4  lb Black patent malt

1/4 lb Crystal malt

6 lbs of Dark Malt Extract (liquid or dry)

2 oz Nugget Hops

1 oz Irish Moss

1 oz Fuggles Hops

1 package of liquid Irish Ale yeast (or a packet of dry yeast if it's all you have)

Irish Porter Recipe Directions:

In your large brew kettle, bring 2 gallons of water to 150 degrees (F). The more water available to boil at the beginning will provide you with a much lighter colored finished product.

In a steeping bag, combine the Black Patent and Crystal Malt grains.  Steep in the 150 degree (F) water for 30 minutes, being careful to maintain the water temperature.  Remove the steeping bag and strain back into the pot.  Turn temperature up to high and increase the wort to a boil.

If you're using liquid malt, place the malt syrup (still in its container) in a large bowl of warm water to make it easier to work with. 

Once the kettle comes to a boil, slowly add the malt stirring constantly. If you're using dry malt extract, pour off a bit of the wort and whisk in the DME in a large bowl, then pour everything back in to the kettle.

Once all the malt is stirred in, add the Nugget hops. Start your timer for a 45 minute boil. Stir often. 

With 15 minutes left in the boil, add the Irish Moss. At 2 minutes left, add the Fuggles hops.

Once the boil time is over, remove the kettle from heat (I like to pour the wort off into another large pot I can cool in the sink - or use a wort chiller if you have one). Reduce the temperature to around 75 degrees F. 

Add the wort carefully into your primary fermentor, being sure to leave the bottom dregs in the pot. Fill up to the 5 gallon line with room temperature water, being careful to stay between 68 and 76 degrees F (don't kill the yeast). 

Stir in the yeast (pop your liquid yeast several hours or even a day earlier if necessary) well, and seal the fermentor with an airlock. Store in a room temperature place out of the way for 7-14 days. You can re-rack into a secondary fermentor after 7 days if you wish. 

Bottle and store for three more weeks (taste and carbonation both improve in my opinion).  This beer will keep in bottles for up to 8 months (but they probably will disappear well before then). This makes 5 gallons. 

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Frank Holes, Sr. is the Vice President of Griswold Mountain Brewing Company and a distinguished crafter of homemade champagne and cordials. 


Recipe of the Month:

Italian Sausage in Tomato Sauce



Italian Sausage in Tomato Sauce
Yield: 10 servings

This is a excellent, hearty dish for those cool autumn nights.  Pair it up with the Chablis used in its preparation, or use a nice Burgundy or Chianti.      

2 lb Italian Sausage 
2 tbsp Olive oil 
2 cups Tomato sauce 
1 tsp Oregano 
1 cup Chablis wine 
1 lb Mushrooms, fresh and sliced
Cooking Directions:
1.  Sauté Italian sausage for a few minutes in olive oil - just long enough to seal it or firm it up. 

2.  Remove sausage and let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. 

3.  Mix the rest of the ingredients in the skillet. Bring to a boil. 

4.  Add sausage and cook for 1 hour on low heat. 

5.  Serve as a hot appetizer atop of crostini, or as a main dish atop polenta or one of your favorite al dente pastas. You may wish to be cautious with the wine at first. Some may find 1 cup too much.  Makes 10 servings.


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