Sunday, January 29, 2012

Uva Fragola

Manuel's Uncle Diego, who makes his own wines and sciacchetrà, brought something amazing to Sunday lunch today.  He handed me a glass of what looked like your standard red wine, but the first waft of fresh, juicy berries from the glass shocked me.  "What is this?", I queried, sipping and savoring the flavor of sweet, fresh fruit in the glass.  "Uva fragola", he explained.  Strawberry Grapes?  I never heard of such a thing, but the wine produced proudly by Zio Diego was like a sweetly alcoholic fruit juice.  Light and delicious, but a ruby red color and with a normal alcohol content - it's a bit disconcerting, when your eyes and taste buds find themselves going in two different directions, but I was intrigued and now I'm entranced.  It's not at all like the fake, alcohol-pop-cooler variety of "mango falvored wine" or something of the like.  The flavor of real strawberries just hits you over the head - and it's easy drinking in spite of it's alcohol content does quite the same.
Strawberry grapes taste, obviously, exactly like strawberries, and can be used in all the same applications as grapes normally are.  Big, heavy, dark fruit layering vines that grow easily in Tuscany and, apparently, Liguria, these grapes are prized by European wine makers.  Even so, they are difficult to find, and because of this, strawberry grape wine is normally very expensive and not something you can easily hunt down in the liquor store.  Not only used for wine, but tarts, jams and other desserts are the normal uses for the fruit.  There is a traditional type of foccacia or flat bread in Tuscany that is laced with these grapes, giving it the unique distinction of being a sort of dessert foccacia.
It's quite tricky to track these grapes down in the United States.  I found a vendor in the UK who sells them for an insanely expensive price for grapes,  and most other websites I find substitute concord grapes for uva fragola.  However, having eaten concord grapes, I can attest to the fact that the two types are quite different.  It's been tricky to track down information on strawberry grape wine beyond the fact that "Strawberry wine" seems to be an incredibly popular song name.
I'm not surprised, because it's quite a "romantic" and delicious drink, and if you happen to stumble upon it, buy it as fast as you can.  Though it's a bit of a trick on your taste buds, it tastes so good it's quite easy to overcome the sensory confusion.

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