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?