Low Alcohol Drinks & Spicy Bubbles

I took a lot of classes this weekend.


If only high school had been this much fun.

Atlanta’s Food & Wine Festival is my favorite event of the year.  It’s not just another tasting tent cattle call.  Food and wine experts come from all over the Southeast to teach classes, host tastings, and showcase their best on the tasting trails.

Food and wine are also great bonding agents.  I tend to go to these event alone, which has lead to meeting a ton of great people.  This year I went with my friend Stephanie, whom I met at last year’s festival in the beer and doughnut pairing class!

Atlanta Food & Wine 2014


The most exciting part about the 3-day festival to me is the opportunity to take so many classes.  Each year they seem to get better and better!  Today I want to share a few of the marvelous lessons I learned.  At 10am Saturday morning I found myself with 4 drinks in front of me in a class called “Drink More, Consume Less.”

If you know me, you know I enjoy a good beverage.  I do not enjoy the hangover after a few, so this class was really interesting to me.  Julie Dalton, a sommelier from Wit & Wisdom in Maryland, began the class by admitting she used to be a big red wine drinker and turned her nose up at wines like Riesling.  I 100% identify with bring a red wine snob!

Food and Wine Festival 2014


What I learned was that huge red wines aren’t the only wines that are fun to pair with food.  A light, mineral-y Chablis was fantastic with tempura fried green beans and saffron aioli.  I also really liked the beans paired with the Lambrusco (a sweet red wine).  The common thread there was that both wines are slightly effervescent.  That bit of bubble combined with something crunchy is, as Julie said, “like a ping pong in your mouth.”

It was another pairing that surprised me most though.  We were given a Riesling which was insanely food with a slice of proscuitto.  The sweet wine with the salty meat was perfect.  I love a sweet and salty combo… how did I not think to do with with food and wine before?!

Drink More, Consume Less


Yet another sweet and salty dish was a decadent dollop of Nutella with salted Marcona almonds.  That is lovely on it’s own, but with a light cocktail made of sweet vermouth, club soda, and bitters it was almost refreshing.  The funny part was that I thought the cocktail boring on it’s own, but it came alive with the Nutella!  #strangebutgood pairing!

Tip: If you’re ever wondering how sweet wine will be, check the alcohol content.  If it’s low (~7%), that means it has more residual sugar and will be sweeter.


Having been very responsible with my low alcohol booze before noon, at 1p I bellied up to the tasting table in a “Spicy Bubbles” class.  I love heat and I love bubbles, and this class did not disappoint!  Jon-David Headrick of Jon David Headrick Selections, and Andrea Reusing, Chef and Owner of Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC, led the hour-long class.

If you’re like me, sparkling wine is normally a pre-dinner or dessert drink.  The goal of this pairing was to show us how it can work throughout a meal with some heat.  As if I had any doubts, I knew I was in the right class when the first heat pairing was popcorn coated in a spicy Indian curry called Vandouvan and a Brut Champagne. 

Spicy Bubbles


One of my favorite pairings was the Dosnon & Lepage Blanc de Blancs “Récolte Blanche” with a Thai green papaya salad.  The salad itself was made up to julienned green papaya, carrots, onion, Thai chills, fish sauce, toasted ground dried shrimp, peanuts, and cilantro (must re-create ASAP!).  It was extremely spicy, but the Champagne was perfect for it.  This particular Champagne had a ton of bubbles, which we learned is an indicator that it will be good with spicier food.  More bubbles = more spice.

You may be under the impression that Champagne is expensive… and you are right.  Sparkling wine can be just a good though!  Champagne is only Champagne because of the region where it’s grown in France!  You can find very high quality sparkling wine outside of the region.

We tasted a Jean-Francois Merieau “Bulles” Touraine Sparkling from the Loire Valley, which is the second largest French sparkling wine production area.  Loire Valley sparklers are made using the traditional method, the same as in Champagne, but are typically lower cost.  This one was under $20!  It was ginger-y and delicious – it’s low dosage* left it crisp and refreshing, perfect for the shrimp it was paired with. 

*Dosage simply refers to how much sugar is added just before corking, which determines the sweetness level of the finished wine.


Now I really am getting back on track, I swear.  While it’s been marvelous, between vacation and this weekend my digestive system is ready for a break.

Would you ever go to event like this alone?  It’s a great way to meet new people!

Do you like sparkling wines?  How about lower alcohol drinks?



  1. says

    Wow what an amazing sounding weekend- even though my least favourite liquid was consumed….

    Events like this are just that- a great opportunity to network and really step out of your comfort zone… And find some new strange inspiration.

  2. says

    And yet ANOTHER DRESS!! Omg, does this mean you might be showing a little leg come cocktail hour at Blend? Workout booty shorts don’t count ya know! 😉

    Thanks for the tip on the low alcohol count on sweet wines…I never know if they are going to be too sweet for my tastes. I’ve GOT to try the Reisling with the proscuitto! I used to love Reislings, but I’ve gotten away from them since I’ve started to like more of the dry stuff. Sorry things didn’t work out for me to tag along this year, but you better believe the calendar is marked for 2015!

    Can’t wait to see you in THREE DAYS!! Is it just me or does it feel like it’s been forever since my last trip to ATL? I miss you!

  3. says

    I echo Tara – it would be the food that would be calling my name…am not really a big drinker….and the food sounds incredible, Laura!
    We missed ya at the AFBS sampling at Pub 71 of their World Cup Menu – last Thursday.

  4. says

    This event sounds fabulous! I don’t have enough expertise yet to consider myself a wine snob..ill take both sparkling & non-sparkling wines. Can’t wait to show off some if these tips next time I’m drinking wine with some friends and actually sound like I know what I am talking about ha ha

  5. says

    Laura, your life is so glamorous! You seriously live the coolest life! I am not really a huuugggee wine drinker, but i will enjoy it during times like now where I am not training (AT ALL :p), and am refocusing. I dont mind going to things on my own though, I love the independence :)

  6. says

    Sounds like such a fun event! We have a food and wine show here but the one in Atlanta is a million times better (/bigger). I’m actually not a fan of red wines at all – Rieslings and Moscato’s are actually my favourites. Can you tell I’m a fan of sweet things?

  7. says

    Looks like such a great event! I probably wouldn’t go alone. Jason used to work in the restaurant business so we got to go to all kinds of great wine tastings, but this was before I like wine (of course). I did, however, love to park myself at the bubblies table.

  8. says

    I would love to go to an event like this! And thanks for the sweet wine tip. The more I learn about wine the more fascinated I become. I’ve recently really gotten into reds with Merlot being my favorite!

  9. says

    Woah I know I would have a ball at this festival! I love wine! and Food! I might have to go alone too because I don’t know many folks who would enjoy that type of awesome fun :)

    • Laura says

      You meet SO many fun people doing these events alone. It really forces you to get outside your circle.

  10. says

    Sounds marvelous! I love learning about food pairing with booze, not to sound like an alco. I’m definitely more of a dry wine drinker, not a big sparkling wine fan although I dont usually have it with food. I applaud you previously going alone, I dont think I have the balls for that though.

  11. says

    I used to be so afraid to go to events alone. I’ve since gotten pretty good with it. It’s a little nerve wracking at first, but you loosen up a bit and I’m sure the alcohol at this event helped out with that. Tony would have been all over these classes. I know he wants to learn more about wines and foods. I think this is actually what Max will probably end up doing. The kid has a killer palate. I’m glad you had a great weekend!

  12. says

    I’m the opposite — love white, generally can’t stand red. (Except a good, crisp, dry rose.) You can try to red-snobbify me, if you’d like… 😉

  13. says

    Umm…I want to go to classes like the ones you went to!!!
    Sounds like a super fun event and lots of learning as a bonus!!!

  14. says

    Interesting! I’m a red wine girl, too, and I have to admit I’ll always choose it over anything else. There’s a neat wine shop by our place and I’ve wanted to go to their community-sized wood table and join a class with pairings – maybe this is the push I need to go for it. 😉 Looks so fun!

  15. says

    This sounds like my kind of event!!

    I used to be a big red wine snob too. Not a snob in the fact that I would only drink good wine ($5 bottles are my jam) but a snob in that I only wanted to drink red wine and nothing else. I’ve been opening up my horizon though and getting more into whites. I also love Prosecco after living off it in Italy last fall. I could def use a class on pairing though!

    • Laura says

      I am right there with you on the reds… but there IS something so refreshing and decadent about a glass of bubbly.


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