Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Not Just Wine Issue 34, October 2005   
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Issue 33, September 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 35, November 2005

Lentils

Lentils, the meat of poor men. One of the legumes which contributed to the rebirth and repopulation of Europe after the medieval famines and epidemics

 Rich in vitamins, fibers and mineral salts, lentils are among the most appreciated legumes since ancient times, when Esau renounced to his birthright for a dish of lentils. Lentils are the seeds of a herbaceous plant - lens esculenta - belonging to the leguminosae family. The origin of the name is connected to the lenticular shape of the seed. The plant has a climbing trunk, with branches, which can also reach the height of fifty centimeters (20 inches), with pods containing two or three seeds, having a lenticular shape and a variable color from yellow to green as well as brown.

 

Lentils in History

 The history of lentils began in truly ancient times. According to studies done on fossils, it is clear lentil is the most ancient legume cultivated by humans. According to historical witnesses, lentils were cultivated since 7,000 b.C. in the south-western area of Asia - in the region now corresponding to northern Syria - and from these areas spread all over the Mediterranean. It is believed the consumption of this legume was common in Turkey since 5,500 b.C., moreover lentils were found in Egyptian tombs dated back to 2,500 b.C.


Lentils, among the most common legumes in
the world, it is a tasty and nutrient food
Lentils, among the most common legumes in the world, it is a tasty and nutrient food

 Evidences of the use of lentils in history are also found in the Bible: by searching the term “lentils” are obtained four verses in which the legume is mentioned. In Genesis 25:34 is written «Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright». In the second book of Samuel 17:28 «…Brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse,…whereas in verse 23:11 «…And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentils: and the people fled from the Philistines…In Ezekiel 4:9 is written «…Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof…

 Lentils were also present in the tables of ancient Romans and in the ones of ancient Greeks; mainly used by poorer social classes, they were considered a nutrient and tasty food. During Roman times, Cato suggested instructions on how to cook lentils, whereas Galen - the famous physician - praised its therapeutic properties. As lentils are rich in nutrients and energetic, they were used in the Middle Age - in substitution of meat - during Friday or in days of fast. Lentils are in fact rich in fibers, starch and proteins, and in case they are consumed together with cereals, they become a complete and digestible food, rich in essential aminoacids. In the Middle Age, in the period in which the population of Europe was decimated because of famine and epidemics, the scarcity of nutrients in the diet of most of the people - in particular poor people - limited an appropriate repopulation. Legumes - including lentils - inexpensive food which could be easily found, largely contributed to provide proteins and vitamins, therefore improving the health of people - and therefore the resistance to diseases - of whole nations.

 

Use and Consumption of Lentils

 Lentils have always been consumed, also thanks to the easiness with which they could be found, the good preservability and - last but not the least - to their low cost, a characteristic for which they were known as the poor man's meat. Even today, in Italy, it is considered a good wish to consume lentils during the dinner of the last day of the year. This custom derives from the ancient Roman tradition of giving a “scarsella” - a small leather bag used to keep money - containing lentils and with the wish they could be turned into money. Lentils are today spread all over the world. In America - both the northern part and the southern part - are particularly being cultivated yellow and green lentils with a big seed (6-9 mm). In Europe, in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and in India, are being cultivated lentils with small seeds (2-6 mm) with an orange, brown and reddish color.


 

 Whenever it is possible, it is preferable choosing dried lentils instead of canned lentils, because they are richer in nutrients and have no preservatives. Of course, canned lentils are more practical and more easy to cook, however it is good to remember the preparation of this legume for cooking is simple and effortless. It will be enough to soak lentils from 4 to 12 hours and by adding sodium bicarbonate - precisely one spoon per each liter of water - or to add a spoon of sodium bicarbonate to the water before cooking. Because of the effects of temperature, calcium bicarbonate gets decomposed, the calcium deposits on the bottom and on the surface of the legumes contained in the pot, therefore hardening the surface and slowing the cooking. Adding bicarbonate therefore means considerably increasing the concentration of bicarbonate ions, which will then avoid the precipitation of calcium ions, therefore avoiding the formation of a film on the surface of legumes.

 For the cooking of lentils, it is good to scrupulously use the right quantity of water, in order to avoid loss of precious mineral salts and vitamins. For this reason it is better to use an appropriate quantity of water or - alternatively - to use a pressure cooker, which requires a lower quantity of water. Despite the use of bicarbonate could have some advantages, its adding in the water subtracts taste to lentils. For this reason, in order to fully appreciate the taste of these legumes, it is preferable avoiding soaking and just boil lentils for about one or two hours in water - a time also depending on the variety - and salt should be added at the end of cooking only.

 

Main Varieties of Lentils

 The best lentils are the ones cultivated in Italy, in particular the ones from Castelluccio di Norcia - in Umbria - which have been recognized as IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta, Protected Geographical Indication). Famous for their delicacy and for their size, the average diameter of these lentils is of about 2 millimeters. These renowned lentils are being cultivated in the plain under the mountain where it is located the town of Castelluccio di Norcia - at an altitude of 1,300 meters (4265 feet) - in a system of mountains part of a charming green and natural oasis. The farmers of Castelluccio have been the precursors of organic agriculture: every year in the same soil, they alternate cultivations of lentils and wheat, as well as pastures, therefore eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.

 The other varieties of lentils commonly known are:

 

  • Lentils of Colfiorito - cultivated in Umbria, in the plain of Colfiorito where the soil is fertile thanks to the presence of a lake which is slowly transforming into a marsh
  • Green lentil of Altamura - slightly bigger in size than the brown one, it is suited for the preparation of side dishes
  • Red lentil - also known as “Egyptian lentil”, it is very common in the Eastern world, commercialized decorticated, it requires a pretty short cooking time
  • Lentil of Villalba - of pretty big size
  • Lentil of Ustica - small, tender, tasty and with a dark brown color, the rare lentils of Ustica are cultivated in the volcanic soils of the island and are still today cultivated by hand
  • Lentils of Armuña - famous for their taste and for their softness, these lentils of Spanish origin are famous for their quality and for their unique taste

 Among the other famous varieties of lentils, are mentioned the ones from Antillo, Chiaramonte, Gangi, Marianopoli, Restauro, Eolian islands, Ventotene and Mormanno.

 

Properties of Lentils

 Lentils are considered legumes with high nutritional value and contain about 25% of proteins, 53% of carbohydrates and 2% of vegetal oils. They are also rich in phosphor, iron and vitamins of the B group. According to a nutritional point of view, 100 grams of lentils are equal to 215 grams of meat. Lentils - just like all the other legumes - are characterized by a high quantity of proteins, a good quantity of carbohydrates and a low quantity of fats. They are also rich in vitamins, mineral salts and fibers, in particular phosphor and potassium. Lentils are a food suited for the prevention of arteriosclerosis because the low quantity of fats contained in them are of unsaturated type.

 The richness in fibers make lentils very useful for the proper functioning of the bowel system and they are also useful in lowering cholesterol. Lentils are considered - thanks to the good quantity of proteins they contain - a highly nutritional food, especially when consumed together with cereals (such as rice, pasta and bread), are very digestible and have no cholesterol. They also contain isoflavones, substances which clean the organism, as well as iron, calcium and vitamin B.

 To end this report, we suggest two tasty recipes based on lentils. A typical preparation from Algeria is Ads Bi Dersa. Ingredients for 4 persons: 500 grams of lentils, 1 chopped onion, 2 leaves of laurel, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 dried and ground hot pepper, a little of cinnamon, 1 spoon of cumin, oil, salt, black pepper. Boil the lentils in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and keep apart. In a cup mix garlic, hot pepper, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Cook the onion in oil until brown, add spices, laurel, lentils and 750 milliliters of water. Boil on a low fire for about 20 minutes while stirring. Serve hot.

 A typical recipe from Umbria is lentils soup in Perugino style. Ingredients for 4 persons: 400 grams of lentils, 1 clove of garlic, 50 grams of tomato sauce, some leaves of sage, salt, black pepper. Boil the lentils in water with sage leaves. In a pot slightly cook the garlic in oil, then add tomato sauce. When the sauce is hot, add lentils and their boiling water, add salt and allow boiling until cooked. Remove the clove of garlic and serve the soup hot in bowls, add some fresh Umbrian olive oil and - if liked - some freshly ground black pepper.

 



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  Not Just Wine Issue 34, October 2005   
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Issue 33, September 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 35, November 2005

Aquavitae

Review of Grappa, Distillates and Brandy

 

Distillates are rated according to DiWineTaste's evaluation method. Please see score legend in the "Wines of the Month" section.



Grappa di Barbera 2001, Casa Luparia (Piedmont, Italy)
Grappa di Barbera 2001
Casa Luparia (Piedmont, Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Barbera
Price: € 15.00 - 50cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of black cherry, blueberry, violet, plum, raspberry, licorice, hazelnut and beeswax, with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, good roundness and balanced sweet hints. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, black cherry and hazelnut. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous distillation at very low steam pressure. Alcohol 42%.



Acquavite d'Uva Moscato di Canelli 2001, Casa Luparia (Piedmont, Italy)
Acquavite d'Uva Moscato di Canelli 2001
Casa Luparia (Piedmont, Italy)
Raw matter: Canelli's Muscat Blanc grape
Price: € 19.50 - 50cl Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of grape, peach, pear, apple, sage, banana, chamomile and litchi with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, very good correspondence to the nose, pleasing smoothness and balanced sweet hint. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of grape, peach and litchi. A well made distillate produced with discontinuous bainmarie distillation. Alcohol 42%



Liquore di Grappa e Camomilla, Distilleria Santa Teresa Marolo (Piedmont, Italy)
Liquore di Grappa e Camomilla
Distilleria Santa Teresa Marolo (Piedmont, Italy)
Raw matter: Grappa of Nebbiolo and Chamomile Flowers
Price: € 22.00 - 70cl Score:
This liquor shows an intense straw yellow color and brilliant green nuances, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean and pleasing aromas of chamomile, pear, hazelnut, walnut and plum, with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors, a pleasing sweet attack and perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good smoothness, good correspondence to the nose. The finish is persistent with intense flavors of chamomile and a sweet hint. This liquor is produced with chamomile flowers infused for 11 months in grappa of Nebbiolo grape distilled in bainmarie discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 35%.



Grappa di Barbaresco 2002, Distilleria Santa Teresa Marolo (Piedmont, Italy)
Grappa di Barbaresco 2002
Distilleria Santa Teresa Marolo (Piedmont, Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Barbaresco's Nebbiolo
Price: € 25.00 - 70cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of plum, black cherry, violet, licorice, hazelnut and rose with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors and agreeable, with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, pleasing smoothness and balanced sweet hints. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, licorice and hazelnut. A well made grappa distilled in bainmarie discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 44%.



Grappa di Venegazzů Riva Vecia, Conte Loredan Gasparini (Veneto, Italy)
Grappa di Venegazzù Riva Vecia
Conte Loredan Gasparini (Veneto, Italy)
(Distiller: Antica Distilleria Negroni)
Raw matter: Pomace of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Bianco and Prosecco
Price: € 27.00 - 70cl Score:
The grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas of plum, violet, hazelnut, dried fig, black cherry and licorice with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, pleasing and balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum and hazelnut. This grappa is distilled in bainmarie discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 43%.



Grappa Capo di Stato, Conte Loredan Gasparini (Veneto, Italy)
Grappa Capo di Stato
Conte Loredan Gasparini (Veneto, Italy)
(Distiller: Antica Distilleria Negroni)
Raw matter: Pomace of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec
Price: € 30.00 - 50cl Score:
This grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of plum, licorice, hazelnut, violet, black cherry and anise with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. in the mouth has intense flavors with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, dry taste and balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, licorice and anise. This grappa is distilled in bainmarie discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 50%.



Distillato d'Uva di Prosecco, Carpenč Malvolti (Veneto, Italy)
Distillato d'Uva di Prosecco
Carpenè Malvolti (Veneto, Italy)
Raw matter: Prosecco grape
Price: € 13.00 - 50cl Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas of grape, apple, pear, banana and honey, with imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors with perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, good smoothness and balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of grape, apple and pear. This distillate is produced with steam discontinuous alembic still. Alcohol 40%.



Brandy Riserva 7 Anni, Carpenč Malvolti (Veneto, Italy)
Brandy Riserva 7 Anni
Carpenè Malvolti (Veneto, Italy)
Raw matter: Selection of wines
Price: € 9.00 - 70cl Score:
This brandy shows an intense amber yellow color, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of vanilla, toasted, chocolate, tobacco, licorice, caramel, hazelnut, dried fig, honey and coffee with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. In the mouth has intense flavors, pleasing roundness, perceptible alcohol pungency which tends to dissolve rapidly, good correspondence to the nose, balanced sweet hint. The finish is persistent with flavors of caramel, licorice and coffee. This Brandy ages for 7 years in small Slovenian and Limousine oak barrels.





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  Not Just Wine Issue 34, October 2005   
LentilsLentils AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 33, September 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 35, November 2005

Wine Parade


 

The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.


Rank Wine, Producer
1 Palazzo della Torre 2000, Allegrini (Italy)
2 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riparosso 2001, Illuminati (Italy)
3 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002, Domaine Billaud-Simon (France)
4 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1999, Maison Trimbach (France)
5 Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2002, Cantine del Notaio (Italy)
6 Harmonium 2001, Firriato (Italy)
7 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998, Santa Sofia (Italy)
8 Trento Talento Brut Riserva Methius 1998, Dorigati (Italy)
9 Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2001, Farnese (Italy)
10 Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo Bianco Terre Alte 2002, Livio Felluga (Italy)
11 Riesling Spätlese Nierstein Brudersberg 2003, Weingut Freiherr Heyl Herrnsheim (Germany)
12 Riesling Central Otago 2004, Felton Road (New Zealand)
13 Brunello di Montalcino 1999, Castello Banfi (Italy)
14 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2000, Zenato (Italy)
15 Jerez Fino Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass (Spain)

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