Orange Wines are Deliciously Gorgeous

Yet here’s another reason why orange continues to be my favorite color – orange wines. I recently had a chance to try this gorgeous copper-hued wine, the 2011 Paolo Bea “Santa Chiara” Umbria Bianco.

Why is it so special? This one hails from Umbria, Italy. Often referred to as the “green heart of Italy,” it’s the only Italian region without access to the sea or international borders. Wines from here are not exactly famous, but they are interesting, delicious and definitely worth seeking. Next, orange wines are generally not widely available. In other words, they are rare treasures. Such is the case of this wine producer – Bea’s wine-making practices focus on high quality artisanal wines, however, their production is low.

Paolo Bea’s “Santa Chiara” 2011 is a fascinating orange wine with a unique field blend of Grechetto, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Garganega. If these are all white grapes, then what makes the wine orange? To clarify, it has nothing to do with orange fruit. Orange wines are white wines produced more like reds, with prolonged contact of crushed grape skins and seeds. This contact produces the distinctly beautiful hue. Ranging in color from butterscotch to tawny brown, they can also vary from vintage to vintage.

Often made in clay vessels or wooden barrels, this is an ancient wine making style that has recently been revitalized by Italians and Slovenians, and are produced today by enterprising winemakers worldwide.

It’s not easy to describe the “Santa Chiara.” It has a very different and unique aroma and quite generous in flavor – with spice, cantaloupe-like, rustic, earthy good funk going on in the glass.

Generally speaking orange wines often possess the body and tannins of red wines and the fruit and minerality of white wines, which it probably why I like it so much.  They are stylistically unique, and many offer earthy savoriness, with a richly textured mouth-feel.

Some claim orange wines to be a fad, but I think they offer a wealth of virtues. They are quite hard to find, however.

As for trying one out, look for a restaurant with a solid Italian wine list. In Las Vegas that would be none other than B&B Ristorante (The Venetian) and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse (The Palazzo).

Coffee from Vietnam Brews Hope

Occasionally, I’ll drop in to the thrift store to hunt for treasures, such as an overlooked vintage Bauer or McCoy pottery.  But, this time I came across a display of coffee from Vietnam.  It wasn’t too surprising, since Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil. But, what I didn’t know was the partnership between the coffee farmers in Vietnam and The Salvation Army.   If you haven’t already heard of this coffee,  it’s a good story.

Pleiku, which is located in central Vietnam, is largely covered with coffee plantations.  The local people live in small villages wedged between the plantations, and through years of isolation, these communities have developed their own language and culture. In an effort to help these poor communities,  The Salvation Army started a partnership with the Pleiku coffee network in 2009 with the purchase of 44,000 pounds of beans. It’s been going strong ever since.

In general, the world loves Arabica coffee beans, but what is largely grown in Vietnam is Robusta, which has a harsher, stronger taste. Its higher caffeine content (double that of Arabica) also makes it slightly more bitter.

Cafe La V _coffee_love_and_relish_blog

The Salvation Army hired a San Francisco coffee company to come up with the right blend:  75% Robusta from Vietnam and 25%  Arabica from Guatemala. If you’re wondering what this blend tastes like, think Café Du Monde without the chicory.  What you’ll find in The Salvation Army stores is called Cafe La V.  The brown foil bag features a big map of its country of origin. I love the saying on the back, which reads, “FRESH HOT HOPE.”

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While Robusta is generally regarded as inferior to Arabica, it’s still good coffee.   The slightly bitter, earthy flavor of the Robusta is balanced with the more delicate sweet flavor of the Arabica.

Try preparing the coffee Vietnamese-style by adding one to four tablespoons of rich and gooey sweetened condemned milk to your cup.  Knowing that the proceeds from the purchase of this coffee assists local farmers and various projects in Vietnam makes each sip a sweet “feel good” experience.