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Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Sangiovese. The names of these grapes inspire images of red hues ranging from autumn auburn to vibrant vermilion; tastes of smoke, berries, cherries, and chocolate; textures ranging from tongue gripping to smooth satin. Yet we owe these sensory impressions largely to the skin of these grapes, and the time the juice of each grape spends fermenting in contact with its skin.

We are familiar with the practice of making a white wine from a traditionally red-wine grape when it comes to Champagne, which frequently is made at least in part from Pinot Noir. Outside of this, though, the idea of a white wine with any of the names above seems counter intuitive, or just plain odd.

We have on our shelves, however, two exceptional examples of the white vinification of red wine grapes that may convince you to become color-blind.

Rainoldi’s Zapel is mostly Nebbiolo with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented at low temperatures – to enhance the aromatic, fresh characteristics that the grapes naturally lend to the wine – and aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks, this wine is lightly yeasty and lemony on the nose. In your mouth, it feels like biting into a ripe Granny Smith apple – both crisp and full with a good acidity. Just a little basil and sage on the finish make this a wonderful wine to enjoy with meal of simple, delicate flavors.

The 100% Pinot Noir grapes for Hexamer’s Spätburgunder Weißherbst (Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir) are hand-picked and vinified at very cold temperatures using only natural yeasts. Just a blush of peach in color, with gentle aromas of almonds, this wine is slightly frizzante, bittersweet orange in flavor, and finishes with a tingly bite. While this would be a perfect aperitif, it also would also stunningly compliment some richer desserts – think custards and buttercream-filled pastries.

For a fun experiment – pair one of these head-to-head with its red vinified counterpart and see if you can tease out components of flavor, properties of texture, or other characteristics that are indicative of the juice of the grape and transcend its skin and the winemaking process.

Rainoldi Zapel and Hexamer Spätburgunder Weissherbst 2013 are both available at Formaggio Kitchen South End, or for pick-up at Formaggio Kitchen Camrbidge with one day’s notice.

 

Marianne Staniunas is a cheesemonger and a member of the Wine Department at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.

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Chocolat Durand 2015 Packaging

Chocolat Durand’s Coffret Bretagne and Formaggio Kitchen’s Choice 16-piece and 32-piece assortments. Packaging varies between shipments, but Valentine’s Day usually sees red ribbon!

A familiar name to many French chocolate lovers, Durand has been renowned for their delicate truffles since the 1980s, when this little patisserie began infusing their chocolates with herbs and spices for the 1987 Christmas season. A few years later, Formaggio Kitchen owners (and husband and wife) Ihsan and Valerie discovered these chocolates on a trip to Provence, and we’ve been smitten ever since.

Roughly four times a year (for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day) we receive a shipment of 16- and 32-piece boxes of Durand truffles. Phenomenally thin and delicate, these truffles are often snapped up fast by those who know to look for them (including a few staff members!). They make great gifts for the chocolate lovers in your life, and we think they taste sweetest shared.

Alas, as with all love stories, this one has had it’s ups and down. In fact, there have always been two Durands — Joël Durand and his wife Brigitte Roussel. Together they pioneered the infusions that make these truffles what they are, but unlike our love of Durand chocolates, the love between the Durands did not last. After their divorce they agreed to share the family name, with a twist: Joël maintained the tradition of labeling his creations with letters of the alphabet, while Brigitte got the numbers.

Today we source les chocolats numérotés from Maître Chocolatier Brigitte Roussel, based in her native Brittany. Our boxes feature a unique selection of Ihsan and Valerie’s hand-selected favorites from Brigitte’s many varieties of 64% cacao chocolate confections. We’re excited to also offer Brigitte’s unique Brittany Box (Coffrets Bretagne), which features 16 flavors classic to the culinary history of Brittany: fleur de sel, buckwheat honey and saffron, Brittany algae, wild anise of the seaside, coffee and lambic, East Indian spices, hazelnut and crushed Brittany crêpe, and salted butter caramel.

Each box includes a flavor guide, to help you identify the contents of each numbered tile. Our favorite way to savor these boxes is with friends, family or a special someone, taking turns with either the box or the guide, blind-tasting a chocolate and guessing the flavors infused!

 

Formaggio Kitchen Chocolats Durand 16-piece Assortment:

Palet d’Or (dark chocolate truffle topped with edible gold leaf); orange; Earl Grey; pistachio; lavender; absinthe; caramel; vanilla; almond praline; pepper; raspberry; rosemary; basil lemon; Guyana (milk chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon zest); Yucatan (dark chocolate, piment d’Espelette, Corsican honey); and a single origin dark chocolate

Brigitte Roussel’s 32 Flavors:
Palet d’Or (dark chocolate truffle topped with edible gold leaf); orange; black coffee; milk coffee; Earl Grey; cinnamon; jasmine; pistachio; fresh mint; lavender; Guyana (milk chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon zest); licorice; absinthe; caramel; Lebanon (dark chocolate, cardamom, coffee); vanilla; hazelnut praline; dill; Yucatan (dark chocolate, piment d’Espelette, Corsican honey); thyme; Irish Coffee; clove and lemon; pepper; raspberry; elderflower blossom; basil and lemon; Vietnam (dark chocolate, fresh ginger and citronella); Madagascar (single origin Madagascar dark chocolate with cacao nibs); verbena; and Tonka nut.

 

Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also the blog manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Saint-Amour Cote de Besset

Château des Rontets Saint-Amour Côte de Besset, from Fabio Montrasi and Claire Gazeau.

As the holiday dedicated to love and lovers approaches, Saint-Amour, the northernmost Beaujolais Cru, attracts some attention that it perhaps does not receive at other times of year, for obvious reasons; however, Château des Rontets Saint-Amour Côte de Besset is a bit of a love story in its own right.

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Pink Peppercorns and Bali Long Pepper

Pink peppercorns and Bali long pepper — two particularly striking alternatives to the standard peppercorn.

Peppercorn berries may have originated in India, but plenty of other places around the word have sought similar spice qualities in local plants that are now also called peppercorns. In Part 1 of our series on this “king of spices” we looked at the wide range of peppercorns available from the piper nigrum plant. In Part 2, we’ll take a closer look at five other well known types of peppercorns that are not to be confused with “true” peppercorn berries.

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The simple secret to a hard decant: the visual cues are in the blur and the foam.

Decanting wine conjures visions of cobwebby bottles, flickering candles, crystal goblets, and white-gloved butlers. Performed primarily to relieve wines of sediment, the technique that’s known as the soft decant once involved all this and a good deal of practiced skill to boot.

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Green, Black and White Peppercorns

Green, Tellicherry Black, and Muntok White Peppercorns

Experimenting with herbs and spices in everyday cooking can be very intimidating. When I first became a spice buyer, I myself was overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of herb and spice varieties that are out there, and it wasn’t until I was preparing to teach my first spice class at Formaggio Kitchen that I truly delved into one of the spice world’s most basic yet versatile berries: the peppercorn.

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Tiramisu

Tiramisu made with Donna Elvira Savoiardi

If you haven’t seen the piles of panettone around the shop, you may not know that we recently received a large shipment of holiday treats from Italy. Along with all the breads, cakes, and other sweets came traditional savoiardi. These crisp Italian ladyfingers from Dolceria Donna Elvira in Modica, Sicily are the perfect building block for tiramisu! After a quick jaunt around the shop I had all the ingredients needed for one of my favorite Italian desserts; except, of course the rum.

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