Our guest this evening is a professor of English literature at York University and she writes about wine and spirits for the Globe & Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper. She’s also written regularly for the Toronto Star, the Report on Business Magazine and The Grid, and has won a National Magazine Award for her work.
She’s the author of “Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History” and wrote a six-part podcast series Wondery’s American History Tellers based on the book. Her most recent book is “America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops” published by Oxford University Press.
And she joins me live now from her home in Toronto: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club Christine Sismondo!
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What was it like around your family dinner table when you were growing up?
Let’s start with some of the stories you’ve recently written for the Globe & Mail. ‘Tis the season for sparkling wine, and we’re familiar with Prosecco, but you explored two lesser-known bubblies from Italy. What drew you to them, and to this story?
Tell us about Lambrusco – how is it different from Prosecco?
Before we get to the modern style of Lambrusco and why it’s so hot right now with sommeliers, let’s look at its roots.
Christine Sismondo is a writer, teacher and barfly.
When not teaching literature at York University, she is tracking down the city’s best drinks and the bars in which they’re served for her columns in ROB Magazine and The Grid. She also writes wine and cocktail articles for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest national newspaper.
Sismondo hails from the restaurant industry, where she tended bar for a decade or so.
In an attempt to escape the industry, she wrote “Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History” which, ironically, only got her more deeply entrenched.
Her new book, “America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops” (Oxford University Press) is now available.
A National Magazine Award-winning writer, Christine Sismondo has been covering spirits and cocktails for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Quench and other publications for twenty years. She’s also the author of America Walks into a Bar: A History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History and Prohibition, a six-part podcast series Wondery’s American History Tellers. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
How was Lambrusco born?
What does Riunite mean?
How did it get so popular in North America?
How does the Charmat method differ from the Champagne method?
Is it a “spumante,” and “frizzante” – and what’s the difference between them?
What happened to sales in the 1960s and 1970s in North America? Why?
So how did it get such a nasty reputation?
Is the Giacobazzi family still in the Lambrusco business?
Has it changed the style of the bubblies it makes?
How diverse is Lambrusco in terms of styles, grapes, yeasts?
It sounds intimidating – is it?
Why is Lambrusco so hot right now with sommeliers?
What do the modern versions taste like?
The second bubbly is Franciacorta – how is that different from Lambrusco and Prosecco?
Why is it more expensive than Prosecco?
How much of it made a year?
Now let’s turn to Sherry.
You note in your Globe story that global export sales were in free fall, with most markets buying half as much of the fortified wine in 2016 as they had in 2006. And then the downturn in 1980.
But in 2017, sherry sales suddenly perked up. Why was that?
Why is Sherry making a comeback?
What is raw sherry?
What does it sound like?
How is that sound made? What is flor?
Who was the first to release raw sherry?
It sounds a bit like beaujolais nouveau with the annual release and buzz?
What is manzanilla style sherry and why is it so well suited to this raw style?
Who first released this in Canada and what was the reaction?
Why not make more of it?
Does it age well?
So will raw sherry save the sherry category?
Finally, let’s talk about pisco.
What is pisco? How is it made? Which grapes?
Where is it made? What’s the difference between Chilean and Peruvian styles?
How is it different or similar to tequila?
How is it changing? What are single varietal expressions?
What is Torontel?
What does it taste like?
Which grapes are used?
Can you drink pisco neat?
Natalie: 00:04 All right folks. Tonight on the Sunday Sipper club, we are looking at some wines that you may not have heard about, but you’ll definitely want to try this holiday season. All kinds of wonderful treats for your palette this holiday season. I’m Natalie MacLean, editor of Canada’s largest wine review site, and we gather here on the Sunday Sipper club every Sunday at 6:00 PM Eastern. That’s Toronto New York time to talk to the most interesting people in the world of wine.
Natalie: 01:03 So our guest this evening, has taught , literature at York University where she, got her Ph.D. and she also writes about wine and spirits for the globe and mail Canada’s largest newspaper and she also contributes to the Toronto star, the report on business magazine, the grid and has won a national magazine award for her work. She is the author of Mondo cocktail, a shaken and stirred history and she has written a six-part podcast series for wonders.
Natalie: 02:14 Americans history tellers. Her most recent book is America, walks into a bar, a spirited history of taverns and saloons, speakeasies and grog shops published by Oxford university press and she got, she joins me now live from her home in Toronto. Welcome to the Sunday Sipper club. Hello, Christine Sismond. Thank you so much for joining us here tonight. so many questions to ask you, Christine, but I wanted to kick it off with, what was it like at the family dinner table while you were growing up? What was happening? What was on the table? Who was there?
Christine: 03:00 Ah, that’s interesting. You know, I actually grew up in Ottawa, in, the Westboro neighborhood. I don’t know exactly how far that is from you. I live in Westborough. Come on. Really? Really? Yes. Where are your people? Which street? But is it w we were on Churchill Avenue. I live in Churchill. No, you do not. We didn’t plan this. That’s amazing. I live at Churchill. My goodness. , my father though is an Italian and he grew up in Argentina and, you know, when we were living on Churchill Ave in Westborough, , there was a real shortage of things that he really wanted to eat and drink all the time because, and before that we were actually in New Brunswick and, if he was having trouble in Ottawa, imagine the trouble he was having in new Brunswick.
Christine: 04:10 So he would sort of do his best to, you know, source things out from the byword market and places like that. But, but really, we had to make a lot of our own stuff. We had a garden plot. We grew a lot of our own eggplants, zucchini. And my parents even made their own wine for a while. Not very good wine, I’ll tell you, but wine nonetheless. So I had an early sort of glimpse into the life I wanted to lead. Oh, wow. So, did, did you, you tasted wine as a child then and grew up with it? Yeah, I think we had, we had wine, not a whole lot. I wouldn’t have had very much when I was a kid. I think I probably didn’t even really like the taste of it when I was young. I think that was sort of self-enforcing.
Christine: 04:53, but I don’t recall it being really, restrictive. Wow. Yeah. And so where did you get your taste for wine and other beverages? Alcoholic? How did that happen? Well, I think it just seemed to me like a normal part of eating, growing up, you know, I mean, my dad sort of an old school, Latin American now, you know, Argentina, he’d, drink a little glass of wine with his lunch, you know, and still was. Right. , yeah. And I know that I kind of look at it and think, Oh, it’s way too early for that. But that’s just, you know, the way that it was more like food. Right, exactly. And you wrote a piece for the globe mail on, the Catena family doctor Laura Catena, who has been on the Sunday Sipper club show in the past. Wow. Wonderful wines. Yeah. So she’s so impressive.
Christine: 05:43 She’s an emergency room doctor. In her spare time. She’s vice president of the family winery. , but what was your focus there? What was the story there on the Catena? Well, you know, in some ways, because I’ve always written a lot about spirits as well as wines and I kind of write more about spirits and drink more. Wine is kind of the way it tends to go. And my parents have always been really big, especially my dad about trying to get me into wine until like wine so much. I love it, but the culture of it I’ve never really connected with, but it Catena that I could not believe the experience that I got there in terms of understanding the soil structure and the difference that it made to the different wines. And we got to go through the vineyards and try the stones and bones. , the two Chardonnays and that are from, you know, they’re really just like 14 feet away from each other. But because they’ve dug down and seen which, which soils are Rocky and which ones are Sandy, they can tell like that they’re going to taste as much different. So then you taste them, they’re right in the fields and you’re like, wow, I have seen the light. You’re right.
Natalie: 06:53 Wow. Yeah. She is a scientist. By nature, I mean not just a doctor, but like her father who also has a doctorate or doctor, they study the soils, you know, almost pebble by pebble and are doing these small lots and everything else. I mean, it’s just amazing what they’ve done as a family for viticulture in Argentina.
Christine: 07:15 Yeah, it’s really impressive and I couldn’t believe, you know, really how visual was and how to cause you can actually look down and see all the different types of soils. I was really blown away by that. Wow.
Natalie: 07:27 That’s fantastic.
Natalie: 08:38 All right, so, moving on then. Christine, I would love to start with, so you’ve highlighted for me some of your favorite wine stories that you, wrote in the globe and mail in 2018 let’s start with the sparkling wines from Italy that we don’t know. We all know about Prosecco and of course champagne from France, but what is one of the two, sparkling wines that we don’t know about so much from Italy?
Christine: 09:31, you know, and it’s really interesting because I think that a lot of people believe that kava is what you call champagne from Spain and Prosecco is what you call champagne. I mean, I realize it’s not champagne, but, from, from Italy. And of course, it’s not because, you know, these are highly regional places with big differences between how they make things from one region to the next and with huge grape variety of differences. So, the two that I wrote about are Lambrusco and Franciacorta, but of course, there are others as well. , those, that happened all also to be my two favorites.
Natalie: 10:08 Hmm. Okay. Let’s start with Lambrusco, which had a very nasty reputation, back in the, I guess the sixties or seventies. Why was that?
Christine: 10:17 Yeah, if you talk to people of a certain age and they can remember when it went out, then they are not eager to have that ever again. And then you have to tell them, no, it’s really a different Lambrusco than what you were drinking. , because we have a sort of more good stuff coming over. But in the 19, early in the late seventies and early 1980s, it, if you look at the top 10 best-selling wines in the United States, there’s a New York times list on it. I think it’s something like four or six of them are Lambruscos. So it was this wildly popular wine among Americans, you know, sort of all throughout the 70s and early 1980s. , not all of it. Was
Natalie: 11:04 that good though. No. Yes. You hesitate. Why wasn’t it good? Like what did it taste like and why was it not that great?
Christine: 11:12 Well, I think that the predominant feature would be just that it was really too sweet for the large part. you know, we, there’s so many different types of Lambrusco now as there were then and before that, but the one that was coming over to North America was sold for $2 a bottle, which is, of course, more, you know, that’s, it’s not two-buck Chuck. Exactly. It’s better than that. , but,, it was really an affordable price point for baby boomers who were just starting to learn how to drink wine. But it was sweet. It was syrupy, it was made generally in Sharma tanks, which is a large scale of doing the secondary fermentation. And, and it was really just not great quality. It would have tasted a little like great pop with like soda pop, like sweet cherry pop.
Christine: 12:08 Yeah, exactly. Yeah, because that was red sparkling wine, right? Oh yes. I should have said that right off the top. Yeah. A lot of people are, are really turned off by that. Even now. I, I know, I told my sister in law, you gotta go get this Lambrusco, it’s at the LCBO right now. I always sort of send out alerts when I see things that I love. And she got there and then she said, Oh,. And she walked away from it and didn’t buy it. Then she came over to my house and another time later and I, and she tried it and she was like, Oh, I was so wrong. I should’ve bought this excellent good case study. And it’s festive. So I think about the holidays, during the holidays we should try a red sparkler. I mean what the, Hey, , Shiraz sparkling Shiraz is in that category at least color-wise, but very, very different production methods.
Christine: 12:53 So you said the Charmat method, that is kind of like in a big tank. The second fermentation versus in champagne, it’s the second fermentation that gets the bubbles happens in the bottle. Right, exactly. And that was some of the sorts of the thing that made Lambrusco, the wine of that era had a lot to do with the fact that there was this collective of light winemakers who got together in Italy. And this is after the country is just been, has been devastated by war. They’re in total depression. Everybody is absolutely flat broke, but everybody’s sort of looking for how are we going to embrace this postwar age. So, they, they pooled together, they formed collectives and they invested in technology for creating the wine and then also for marketing it and for storage and together this group of, of, wine producers, they United and that’s what means in English is United.
Christine: 13:54 And, and they pulled their resources and they put, they made this wine and then they marketed it to the United States and it did fantastically well. Hmm. So they dialed up the sugar. They had an easy production method, low cost to production. Did they do anything else? How did they market it so that it got such great penetration into the market here? They were really smart about it. First of all, I think that they, they tweaked the flavor profile of Lambrusco so that it would be sweet for very young people who were just learning to like wine. So people didn’t have to deal with a very challenging palette. And second of all, they went to TV and they advertised it on TV and they actually used, , the tune from, I think it was a howdy duty intro. And then they sort of superimpose these words of, you know, about, I can’t remember exactly what they are now and sorry, but, , if anyone ever wants to they can contact me and I’ll find the exact lyrics cause they’re fantastic. So it was a very like, you know, young adult poppy upbeat sort of song that would remind people of their childhood watching howdy duty. And that was the advertising campaign at first.
Natalie: 15:03 Wow. That’s like Ratatouille. All the memories go back to childhood and it’s that, you know, that connecting memory that sets off the whole a series of associations was amazing. So, , and just, we’re going to continue this discussion cause, I definitely want to talk about why it’s trending now again,
Natalie: 16:01 . All right, so Christine, back to Lam. So that was [inaudible] reunited, United. So how did the Lambrusco then evolve? So it had this trench, this foothold in the sixties and seventies. Then I guess I would assume it fell out of favor being sweet and, but what’s happened to the method to the style and why is it making a comeback now?
Christine: 16:46 I mean, I think that there’s probably being sold in a lot of places still. , but you know, in the sort of more rarefied wine circles, , nobody is really going to buy that at this point. But there are a number of producers who have decided that that have abandoned the Charmat tanks and they’ve gone back to the older methods from before and they’re doing a secondary fermentation in the bottle. , it costs a little bit more than, the two-buck Chuck. , of course. But, there’s such a wide range of these fresh and delicious wines that you can have. And I mean, I’ve never tasted quite the range of, of flavors in anything other than limbers go because there’s everything from the palest pink or you could almost mistake it for a brute rosé a kava perhaps all the way over to like this, you know, really thick and, and Grapey sort of foamy, something that could be like a, a lambic beer. You
Natalie: 17:50 know, it’s just a huge range of things going on. Wow. That is diverse.
Natalie: 20:05 Okay. All right. So I, I’ve even lost track where we were, Christine because I love the comments here. So with a Lambrusco, so it’s now more modern, more diverse. , you were saying in your article, there are just so many grapes that are used. So many yeasts. I mean, how do we keep track of it all? It sounds a little intimidating for what used to be a simple drink. Now, very modern in style and assembling a darling sounds a little intimidating, is it? Well,
Christine: 20:48 you know, I guess you could if you wanted to catalog everything. I’m sort of not, I’m not really methodical in my approach to wine in that I don’t, you know, keep track. I don’t have, , you know, a notebook with scores or anything like that. I just, I just drink it so, so, and I try and if things are fantastic, then I remember them and I remember sort of the general story and then I, and then I don’t worry about being intimidated by things because you know, and, and, and the great thing about Lambrusco in terms of the intimidation factor is that they’re really meant to be unpretentious drink ’em now drink ’em up like immediately. Like they, even, a lot of them have, a metal cap instead of a full cork. Some of, you know, there’s a little bit of a range on terms of how they’re packaged, but they’re meant to be the kind of wine you stick under your arm and you go on the picnic and you just pop it open and drink it.
Christine: 21:44 It’s a drinker, not a thinker, I guess is the word that there’s a good tagline. Someone should use that. That’s great. All right. Let’s talk about the other Italian sparkling that you’ve written about in the globe mail. And that is, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it correctly, but Franciacorta so you might say different, I call it French a quarter by quarter, but you might be right. I’m not really 100% positive. My dad did not teach me enough Italian. Oh, well that’s okay. Well made up for that deficit in your education. So maybe differentiate friendship Corda from Lambrusco and from Prosecco, like let’s situate it. What, what is it like and how is it different? So now we’re back to a white sparkling, and, you know, without, Prosecco is obviously extraordinarily successful because it is really easy drinking. , and I find it a little bit sweet.
Christine: 22:41, and I tend to personally, I would opt for kava made according to the traditional method with the secondary fermentation in the bottle over, Prosecco. And, it’s not that I have any kind of prejudice against a different type of method. Exactly. , it’s just that I find that flavor has driven me in that direction. And the flavor of friendship Corta again drives me right to it every single time. I think it’s just really elegant, you know, I don’t want to compare it to champagne because I believe that they should be all judged according to their own standards. But, of course, it is in that direction and that it’s dry. The bubbles are really fine, the flavor is really elegant and perfect and, you don’t kind of get that the glare. A grape to me has a little bit of sweetness that, that I, that I find a little less palatable than the grape fix that’s being used for fringe a quarter and glare, is the grape used for Prosecco.
Christine: 23:45 Yes. Sorry. Right. Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. , so why is Franciacorta then more expensive? You’re, you’re alluding to it, but are there some core things that they do making Franciacorta that, do add costs to the process? Yeah. So as I understand it, not all prosecco is Charmat method, but the vast majority of it is. So there are some exceptions to that, whereas with the Franciacorta French quarter, there is no charmat being used whatsoever. It’s as far as I understand, I, I haven’t, you know, been everywhere. , so that, but I believe that’s one of the features that, that you can qualify for the doc is that you’re using, you’re making it in this sort of very specific way. So just the time alone is a big deal. And then, in addition, there’s the risk, which is that secondary fermentation in the bottle is not necessarily always going to go well there.
Christine: 24:41 You can buy a riddling machine of course, but some people are hand riddling all of the bottles, you know, in certain cases. And so, I think that that is, those are the reasons, why it’s a much more expensive wine. It’s, yeah, go ahead. Yeah, no, I was gonna say there was a Bella Vista here, I think in the summer and it was around forty-two dollars, something in that neighborhood. I can’t remember exactly. , uh, and again, you’d hate to just compare things to champagne because it’s just really the wrong way to go, but you could, you could definitely tell people it was a champagne and they would be happy and some people would say that it has a different flavor profile and expresses the terroir of the region in a much different way than champagne. Some people would probably like it much better. Yeah, absolutely. So we don’t get many of these wines.
Christine: 25:35 The Franciacorta in our liquor stores across the country, no Italian sparkling wine aside from Prosecco is rare. This year there were a few Lambers goes, which I was really happy to see. , and I bought a lot of them and, I think there’s a Trento in, the LCBO right now. And then there was a French quarter, at least one this summer. And other than that, it’s private import. Wow. Okay. So we’ve got to snap them up when we see them, at least if we want to try them. Yes. All right. And so do you think the food pairings would be any different for, I mean, what would you, what would be your ideal pairing? If you could choose anything for a Lambrusco, a modern style Lambrusco and a Franciacorta? I think that Lambrusco is extraordinarily food-friendly because the acidity is really quite high.
Christine: 26:27 So you could go anywhere from a Christmas turkey to the antipasto with the heavy meats, you know, the lardo and the salami and, the nice hams, the prosciutto, it’s perfect. I’ve had it with sausages on the barbecue. I mean, it’s just such a good wine for food. , and then, you know, the same holds true with any white sparkling that it holds up against a lot of different things. But with a French quarter, I’d be more inclined to pair it with something like a, a fish, a smoked salmon, All of those things would work out, I think. Really. Well,
Natalie: 27:14 that sounds great. I’m really intrigued. Now. I want to go get a Lambrusco. I mean, I just had that headache hangover from the perception of the sixties and seventies, and now I want to give it a try. ,
Christine: 28:36 .
Natalie: 28:39 So you have written about that for the globe mail. So Sherry has been, again had this hangover image as, I don’t know, your grandmother’s wine or an Oxford Dawn wine, you know, just an, a past generations wine. I should be careful with my language. But what, what is happening now with Sherry that is kind of giving it a revival?
Christine: 29:04 You know, it’s really funny because I think what’s interesting is that for the past five or ten years, everyone has been saying Sherry’s been having a comeback because everybody’s into the Spanish restaurants. I’m, you drink you, you eat your tapas and you have a little glass of Sherry with it. And cocktail bartenders are using Sherry as a modifier in cocktails. But you know, all the trend spotters should have phoned up the people in head F and told them that this was going on because the sales were not reflecting that they were not picking up at all. And in fact, Sherry was still continuing to lose in sales every year. I wrote an article a few years back that I argued that the whiskey business was, you know, keeping Sherry in business more than drinking Sherry because they’d, people wanted the barrels afterward to age their whiskey.
Christine: 29:59 And, and then there was just finally, after all this time of saying it’s back, it’s back, it’s back. Sherry sales kind of went up about a year and a half or two years ago. And why was that? Like what, what was the resurgence? I mean, it can’t be just marketing. Was there a new style or something came through? I can’t say for sure, but it did seem to coincide with people getting really excited about the, on Rama expressions. So En Rama, tell us about what, what is that? I’m Rama. I have a bottle of, I loved this so much when I tried this in pain that when I came home I bought, c. Okay. Tio Pepe En Rama. All right.
Christine: 30:47 When I came home because I just loved it so much. It is a seasonal product and essentially they call it, it’s a raw Sherry and Rama means like from the branch or directly from, you know, that, that’s the sort of idea. And I guess in some ways you could kind of link it to the natural and organic wine movement because it’s kind of similar. , but what it is is that there’s a when they’re aging, the Sherry, there’s a layer of yeast that they call floor that keeps certain sherries from getting over oxidized. So some Sherry’s are oxidized and others Sherry’s or not. And, after they filter all of the yeast out and then bottle it, and that’s when you get a Fino or a man Zinnia, depending on, that’s a regional distinction. So, so the filtration of the yeast is the standard way that you would do that.
Christine: 31:45 And it’s a little like, if you think of a chill filtered whiskey that people just don’t want to run across a little bit of, you know, yeast bit in their wine, they want it all clear. Yes. Apparently, when somebody was at T O Pepe one day, they tasted out of the barrel and which means that the yeast is still there and it’s still in the glass a little bit and they said this is better than the other expression. You should figure out a way to bottle this. And then they did. And so I think they’ve been doing that. , they’ve been doing that for a while, but it’s only recently become more available outside of, it was in England and pain at first and now it’s starting to come to North America. So they’re keeping that floor, that cap on there. And you can taste that do you, is it a, a solid thing that you actually sort of getting bits and chunks as you drink or, Oh, they, so the floor, they still have to filter some of it out.
Christine: 32:42 It’s just that it’s not very meticulously filtered. So there’s some yeast that’s getting into your wine and a much higher percentage than there was before. And so what’s interesting about it, I mean, and this is all really about kind of having been there and tried both and being like, okay, I really love the Tio Pepe fee. No, this is great, but I really love the Tio Pepe Fino on Roma. And you know, you just find yourself reaching for the ne that draws you back over and over again. So anyhow, it, the idea is that the yeast dies in the glass and then it adds extra protein and that protein gives it a sort of a more buttery kind of sensation. And, , and it really has a kind of a for me that, you know, I can really taste like sort of a difference in the body and the flavor and it’s remarkable and it’s addictive.
Natalie: 33:37 Oh yes. Sign me up. So you said it was seasonal. Is it available now or does it only certain seasons like spring this will come out?
Christine: 33:45 It, it depends on the producer. I mean, I also have, a man Zinnia on Rama that you will see in the LCPO occasionally. I think this comes in, it may be coming in very soon, something along these lines and pulled it up a little higher, little higher. There we go. Oh, okay. Gotcha. Yeah. And this one is, uh, also delicious. This is from, the man’s a knee is, I find they tend to have a little bit of salt, so it’s like salt and butter together. It’s just delicious and perfect. Yeah. And they, they, they only do two releases per year of this one, I believe. , and they only do one release per year of the Tio Pepe En Rama. But between all the different ones doing it, you should be able to find it year-round,
Natalie: 34:36 huh? Yeah. I’m, I’ve got my shopping list for tomorrow. That just sounds so intriguing. I mean, I love the whole concept of ami and, you know, I love wines that are unfiltered, that still have the stuffing in them. I mean, just the particulate, it’s, it adds to the taste, I think. Yeah, exactly.
Christine: 35:38 natural style of Sherry is going to save the Sherry category, Christine? Well, the thing that, the reason that I think it is said that if you look at the uptick in sales, the Sherry industry finally experienced after all this time, the two categories. So it’s not as though the unramped is, you know, the only thing that people are drinking. But I think it drives people’s interest in those two products. So you buy an En Rama you fall in love with it. And maybe you don’t have the enrollment next time, but you’re like, Hey, this is really good too. Sorry to be working a little. Yeah, absolutely. And what would you pair with it? What would be your favorite food pairings for an En Rama? Especially? I think just a Spanish ham is the way to go with that. You know, the Fino
Christine: 36:26 Yeah, they’re just perfect with that kind of salty meat. That’s great. All right then. Wow. , okay. So let us move on to Pisco. We usually focus on wine here, but, you are a cocktail and spirits brighter as well. So I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk about one of your favorite stories about Pisco. We don’t Pisco sour or some of us do. So maybe slide us into Pisco gently here. What is a Pisco sour cocktail? Oh, a Pisco sour cocktail is, I think maybe the best cocktail ever. I mean, it’s, it’s just really solid and perfect every single time. If it’s made correctly, it’s just lime, egg, white sugar and Pisco. , and that’s it. And you know, you shake it over ice and you strain it and then you add a little bit of Angostura bitters at the end. And if you do it right, it should have a really frothy top and it should be both.
Christine: 37:25 You should feel sort of the dry tannins from the, from the wine-based spirit. And in addition to it, this like punchy acidity. It’s just like, it’s, it’s like, I don’t really like lemon meringue pie, but it’s like what I wish lemon meringue pie tastes like as long pie. Yeah. A good way to put it. , okay, so let’s, move back then. What Pisco with an E. like the, we say Pisco. Yeah. Yeah. He’s going right. So what is that like if we have it straight up or deed or what is it? What is, what is it, how is it made? What does it taste like? Have we ever had a grappa? Yes. Okay. Do you find it really harsh and yes. Yeah. Right. So, I think that Pisco is like a much more easy-drinking, friendlier, more approachable version of grappa.
Christine: 38:18 And it’s not made exactly the same way as the grappa. So that’s one of the differences. But essentially the basic principles of it, it’s an unaged grape Brandy, and so it’s sort of similar. It’s in the same family as the grappa. And so what would be the flavors of a straight-up Pisco go? Like what would you be getting a, is it, is it a floral flavor lime flavor? Like what are you getting out of this? If you don’t mix it in a cocktail? It depends on an awful lot on what type of grape is being used. So there is blended pisco, which tends to be the sort of Pisco that you should really be reserved for cocktails. They’re still quite high-quality spirits, but they’re not generally suitable for straight sipping.
Christine: 39:10, and then there’s the Puro pisco goes and those are the pure ones. And basically that just means single varietals. So it’s the expression of one single grape. And within that category there are, I know it sounds confusing, two different types and one they call the puro. And the other one they call or sorry, the other one I’m having trouble thinking of the name, but the other one is made from aromatic grapes. Okay. Okay. So you can have a very straight, great Brandy flavor or you can have one that’s, that’s much more aromatic and floral depending on which variety, all of this. And why did you get fascinated with this story? Why, why did you choose to write about it in the, in the globe mail? , you know, I, because probably because my dad grew up in Latin America and because I used to go, occasionally we went and we spent a lot of time in Central America and some in South America where he grew up.
Christine: 40:11 I’ve always felt kind of drawn to it. I don’t know, maybe a lot of people feel like, Oh, maybe I should’ve been born there, you know, where their parents came from. And, and I just don’t, I really like, that culture. I like the food. I like the drink. And so I went to Peru and, I did S I, I spent a fair bit of time there. And one of the things I did is I went to eco, which is where they make a lot of, And then I, you’ve learned this really interesting thing whenever you go to a place that it’s really kind of intellectually interesting spirit because they have to distill it to proof. , and what does that mean to proof? , you know, I can’t remember the exact level, but you’re, you’re not adding water after to change the way it tastes.
Christine: 41:00 Right? So you’re, you’re bringing it up, you get really One shot to make this piece go perfect. And then you’re not aging it in wooden barrels. It is, it isn’t, age, like every sort of briefly in a firm, in a tank and a stainless steel tank. But, by definition in Peru, no wood. And you know, you think how many spirits get their flavors from the wood and they get their caramel, they get their vanilla, they get there, you know, and this is one where it’s like, forget it. So this is pure of a fermented and distilled grape there. If you buy a puro, it’s just one great, there’s no blending, you know? And so it’s really kind of an interesting exercise because they got to nail it and yeah, absolutely. And when you talk about terroir and spirits, sometimes it can be a little bit of a weird concept because you’re reducing it to nothing and then turning it back into a liquid.
Christine: 41:58 But here you’ve got this spirit that really reflects the place where it was grown because you haven’t, you know, added anything. That’s interesting. And so I don’t write about spirits, so I’m probably mistaken in this, but the only thing I’ve heard about proof was like, you know, they would burn a candle or something and it’s the flame burns so long it was proof of how much alcohol was in the spirit. That was the origin. But proof does it translate to like double or half of what the alcohol level is? So if whiskey is forty percent then is proof twenty or eighty-something like that? I think it’s double, isn’t it? Yes, exactly. It’s double. Exactly. For us wine types who are not used to all this alcohol.
Natalie: 42:48 Just clarifying. All right, so that is so cool.
Christine: 43:41, well, so there are, I think that there are, I seem to recall that there are ten or twelve different ones that are used regularly. When I went, which is a while ago, there was a company called Pisco poor tone and they had one from each grade and I believe that there were twelve different varietals, but one of them was a must so, and one of them was a blend. So I think that’s, , I and this is actually the new incarnation of Portone, which is one of the places that I visited when I was there and that’s made from a cab Renta. Great. , and, that is a nonaromatic grape, but then there are in other ways that it could happen.
Christine: 44:36 which is the same company and that is a much more aromatic grape. , you could also, they’re also made from a Muscat Italia. and I’m, I think it’s called common black. I’m sorry, I’m not good with all of the different grapes, but okay. You’re ahead of us. So would you drink this just as a cocktail or would you actually enjoy Pisco like these single varietals with a meal? Would you pair them with food? You know, I’m not really a huge fan of pairing spirits with food except for cheese and chocolate. I always pick, wine to go with a meal. I just think personally, I just think, it works better. I mean, there are a few things that you might have appetizers or desserts tend to be where I would put a spirit and this would go perfectly with a cheese plate.
Christine: 45:35 And is that the proper glass that you have there? Like a little glass? Yeah. I’m using this also for my Sherry, but this is, this is it. This is actually the Pisco that I have here. , which I have two drinks. I’m double-fisting by, so thorough for you, for your readers. , but yeah, this is a, just a Glencairn glass, which is a pretty standard spirit, blah.
Christine: 46:40 I, love Europe. Obviously Europe has some of the best wines in the world, but, you know, I was in Puerto Vallarta recently and I’m just like now obsessed with Mexican wine and I want to know all about it and uh, like that’s actually the thing I would want to find out the most about right now. I just think that emerging wine regions are so fascinating. Yeah. And you’re a great storyteller. Speaking of that, hold up your book, the one that you have graciously agreed to offer as a prize. It’s available, on, I would say online and in bookstores. And what is the title? america walks into a bar. Okay. And what’s the subtitle? It’s a spirit. It’s a mouthful. It’s a spirited history of Tavern, saloons, speakeasies. Awesome. Tha
Natalie: 47:30 sounds great. Published by Oxford university press, so it’s available. It sounds like there are many great stories in that book, Christine, and you’re working on a new book if I understand correctly. I am. That’s right. Awesome. Finish this. I’m going back to it. Oh good. Wow. Dedication. All right, well Christine, where can people find you online and, and we’ve already said where your book is available online or in retailers. Where can we find you online? I met at Christine’s Sismondo.com. , I’m on Twitter @sismondo. If you want to go to Instagram. I met at Mondosismondo. Awesome. Well Christine, thank you so much for joining us here tonight. That was entirely delightful. I love the stories. I love discovering all of these. I’m motivated now. I’ve got a shopping list, of things I want to try over the holidays.