December 4, 2020

Choose Cold Duck this Christmas

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Christmas is almost here as we speak. I have many pleasant memories of past Christmases and New Years Eves, too. Some of those memories are of a certain sparkling wine, called Cold Duck. As the old familiar songs play in the background, and nearby homes are illuminated in their bright, colourful holiday glory (especially the South Church one), I look back fondly on this beverage, remembering it from many special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas and New Years Eve. I even with nostalgia, the commercials from the 1970’s, of a happy couple toasting the holidays with a glass of Cold Duck, with a cheerful Christmas carol playing in the background.

You might think that Cold Duck sounds more like a dinner recipe than a beverage. Or, you may cringe at the thought of a bottle of Cold Duck, since it is one of the cheapest wines on the market, at only $6-10 dollars per bottle. Cold Duck doesn’t carry the same sophistication as some of the other sparkling wines on the market, such as Dom Perignon or other champagnes. But Cold Duck was at one time one of the best selling and most popular sparkling wines in the United States. Compare that to the hefty price of a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, which can be well over $100 a bottle.

Cold Duck originated in Germany, where it can be traced to the common practice in Bavaria of mixing cold, sparkling Burgundy with bottles of previously opened Champagne. This mixture was known as kalte ende (cold end). This custom kept the opened bottles of champagne from being wasted, and it also provided people with a tasty beverage at the same time. Over time, the name became transliteraeed to kalte ente, which translates to cold duck. In 1937, the owner of the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars in Detroit, Harold Borgman, invented his own beverage based on this Bavarian custom.

Cold duck experienced a sizable surge of popularity in the early 1970s, being a very popular wine for parties and gatherings. With it’s soft concord grape base, Cold Duck is mixed with a combination of sweet red and white wines. The original American Cold Duck combined one part of a California red wine with two parts of a New York sparkling wine. This exact recipe varies today. One of the best known brands of Cold Duck is André, from the E&J Gallo Winery, which uses Concord grapes for their recipe. In 1971, only four short years after André Cold Duck was introduced to the public, the E&J Gallo Winery was selling two million cases of the wine every year. Like many white wines and sparkling wines, and unlike most red wines, Cold duck is best served chilled. However, some people might find it too sweet for their palate.

Food Pairing:

Pairing André Cold Duck with Side Dishes

Cheddar Cheese: The André Cold Duck becomes drier and has a stronger fruit finish when paired with cheddar cheese. The Cold Duck would probably work well with a lot of different cheese appetizers and hors d’ouvres

Cole Slaw: Cold Duck is acceptable when paired with cole slaw.

Potato Salad: Cold Duck is acceptable when paired with potato salad.

French Fries: The André Cold Duck becomes more aromatic when paired with french fries, especially seasoned fries. It seems likely that slightly saltier and more seasoned foods will work better than sweeter foods.

Pairing André Cold Duck with Meats

Hamburger: When paired with hamburger, the Cold Duck becomes drier and smoother. The Cold Duck would probably be good with a variety of grilled meats.

Sweet Italian Sausage: The André Cold Duck becomes much more tannic and creamy when paired with sweet Italian sausage. I’d recommend trying this with just about any sort of sausage, bratwurst, or hot dog.

BBQ Beef: Cold Duck is acceptable when paired with BBQ beef. I had expected it to work better with BBQ, but perhaps the sweetness works against it.

Another popular brand is 5th Avenue Cold Duck. This one has a heady pineapple fragrance from Ferdinand de Lesseps grapes, combined with a candy floss scent from Pinotage grapes, with a charming, gently sweet carbonated sparkle.

If Cold Duck is not in your future, a sweet, pink, sparkling wine I also recommend is Brachetto d’Acqui. From Italy, it is relatively low in alcohol and high in sugar, but has really bright red fruit and is simply delicious. The Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG is located in southeastern Piedmont close to Asti. The Brachetto grape can make still and dry wines but is known for making some finger-lickin Frizzante!

However, drinking all this sugar can bring you a horrible headache early in the morning hours and instead of Cold Duck you might have to go ‘Cold Turkey.’

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