Life’s peachy keen with a classic Bellini cocktail
By John H. Isacs
The English language adores peaches. Look no further than how this delectable stone fruit is portrayed in modern English. Phrases of endearment proliferate including, “she’s a peach,” “peachy keen,” “that’s peachy” and many others. This positive vernacular extends to the world of wines. The quality of peaches in wines are almost universally positive. Some of the world’s most beloved sparklers and white wines exude essences of peaches. But how can a beverage made entirely of grapes offer such profound sensations of peach? Science has the answer.
In winemaking, the chief contributor to aromas and flavors is the fermentation process. When grapes ferment, natural yeasts eat the sugar content of the grapes and turn it into alcohol. During this process over 200 complex chemical compounds or esters are formed which give wines such diverse aromas and flavors. Some of these esters feature in similar molecular forms to a plethora of fruits including the peach, therefore when we experience these esters in grape wines they resemble other fruits. In contrast to the singular sensations of unfermented fruit juices, wines can offer a symphony of fruity and other aromas and flavors.
Different grapes have a penchant to exhibit specific aromas and flavors. Each grape variety has a unique physiology with specific aromatic compounds. These compounds are mostly found in the skin but can also come from the pulp and are almost undetectable until the fermentation process releases their potential. The Muscat grape offers an abundance of ripe peach aromas and flavors.
In the wine world, nothing so perfectly says fun as a good glass of Moscato d’Asti. Better yet, they’re also among the most affordable high-quality wines in the world. Made in and around the town of Asti in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, Moscato d’Asti wines are inexplicably some of the most overlooked wines in the world. These lightly sweet and gently effervescent wines are made from the ancient Moscato Bianco variety, also referred to as Muscat.
Moscato d’Asti wines are only slightly fizzy and usually have about 5.5 to 6.5 percent alcohol. The sweetness in these wines is never cloying and is balanced by lively acidity.
As with any popular style of sparkling wines, like Champagne, CAVA or Prosecco, certain producers cut corners, while others invest the time and costs to make better wines. When choosing a Moscato d’Asti be sure to pick a top producer. Premium makers include L’Armangia, Araldica, Ca’Bianca, Lune Nuove, Cardinale, Michel Chiarlo, La Spinetta, Prunotto and Bera. Moscato d’Asti wines are best enjoyed while young with ideal serving at around 6-8 Celsius.
The teamwork between nature and natural process of fermentation impart peach qualities to wines but there’s another man-made method that offers equally satisfying sensations of peach. I admire the creative qualities of bartenders. But my favorite cocktails are traditional favorites. One of the best is a true classic.
Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice created the Bellini cocktail about a decade after the bar opened in 1931.
The Bellini, which is made of peach juice and Prosecco sparkling wine, quickly became the most popular cocktail in Venice. Cipriani said the color of the cocktail reminded him of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by the 15th century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini, so he named it after the artist.
Famous writers and world class drinkers like Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis all enjoyed the cocktail at Harry’s Bar as a warm-up before they got down to more serious drinking. The Bellini was also said to be a favorite of the great movie director Orson Wells.
Remember that a real Bellini cocktail always is made with Prosecco, not Champagne or other sparkling wine. At some top bars and clubs in Shanghai I’ve noticed that Bellini cocktails are made with Champagne, what a shame! If you want a Champagne cocktail, have a Kir Royal.
Making a Bellini cocktail is easy. The proper ratio of peach juice to Prosecco varies. Personally, I like about 1/6th peach juice and the rest Prosecco but I have a few friends who prefer a sweeter and more fruity version comprised of about a quarter peach juice. Best case use fresh peach juice but good quality canned or bottled peach juice is also fine.
When prepared properly this cocktail has pale, aromatic nose of fresh peaches and white flowers and mouth tickling flavors of citrus fruits and peaches. In short, this refreshing drink is a peach lover’s heaven.
Where to buy in Shanghai
Sai Bai Non Mongolian Restaurant, 166 Sichuan Rd M., 6373-1789