Cold and refreshing—and all vintage wine. Shown from top to bottom: Sauternes, May Wine and Pinot Noir Wine Cellar Sorbets.
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE™.
Updated May 2007
Wine Cellar Sorbet
Wine-Based Sorbets Are “Vintage Desserts”
NOTE: THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN UPGRADED TO A “TOP PICK OF THE WEEK.” PLEASE READ THE TOP PICK INSTEAD OF THIS VERSION: IT HAS MORE CURRENT INFORMATION, AS WELL.
CAPSULE REPORT: And now for something completely different—serious sorbets made of vintage wines. Sweetened but barely sweet, these are not sugary frozen desserts but sophisticated refreshments and palate cleansers. The most special of specialty foods, they’re just what the gourmet doctor ordered! The products currently are in limited distribution. We urge you to have your local stores call up the manufacturer and have it shipped in to your area posthaste!
Occasionally when we have elaborate dinners, we will make a sorbet or granita as a palate cleanser between fish and meat courses, using marc, grappa* or an eau de vie. As much as it’s a hit with guests, we say occasionally because this extra course takes time and focus from preparing the main meal.
*French marc (pronounced mar) and Italian grappa are essentially the same product; potent and a somewhat harsh variety of eau de vie distilled from the pomace (grape residue) left over from making brandy.
Thankfully, Wine Cellar Sorbets has come to our aid, launching the first-ever line of wine sorbets that will do perfectly as palate-cleansers. The sorbets are not simply wine-flavored, but are wines frozen into sorbets, with just the tiniest amount of sugar plus a stabilizer and pectin for consistency.
Carded For Sorbet
The container—lid and base—advise that one must be twenty-one years age to buy the sorbet, and the register scan advises the cashier to verify our age. We roll our eyes. How inebriated can any minor get eating sorbet, even though the pint is up to 5% alcohol by volume, as much as beer (wine is typically 10% to 14% alcohol, with fortified wines like Port higher)?
When we get home and taste the sorbets—woo hoo! It is like drinking frozen wine. Who knows what might happen to kids foolish enough to freeze their mouths numb by eating an entire pint to see if they get a buzz. We did eat the equivalent of a pint at each sitting. While we may have gotten a tad tired, it could have been from lack of sleep, or from an overload of eating all those carbs in the space of half an hour.
Wine Sorbet Flavors
Flavors will change on a rotating basis. The “current vintages” include:
- Three reds: a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from California, a 2005 Pinot Noir from New York and a non-vintage Sangria from Spain
- Two whites: a a non-vintage Champagne from California and a 2004 Riesling from New York
- One blush wine: a non-vintage Rosé from New York
Like most sorbets, these are low in sugar and have no fat. Unlike most sorbets, they are not particularly sweet (see the note about the red wine sorbets below), but are serious gourmet products that make excellent palate cleansers between courses, as well as sophisticated desserts. We would serve them with cheese. They also can be used as frozen cocktails.
We found most of the flavors over a two-week period at our local Whole Foods Market. Since the store only gives shelf space to four flavors at a time, we’ll have to keep checking back to update this review. Plus, since we first reviewed this line, the company has revised its offering, discontinuing some of the original flavors and adding new ones. We haven’t tasted the new flavors yet, but here’s the current lineup along with our original tasting notes, and pointers to recipes on the company’s website:
- Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet is the least sweet of the sorbets, tasting of dark berry fruits like currant and plum, with spicy notes. Yes, as with a wine tasting, you can taste all the varietal characteristics, even when frozen. Website recipe: Blackberry Noir Smoothie.
- Pinot Noir Sorbet offers softer red fruit in a sweeter base. It’s more approachable than the Cabernet, but also less complex. It reminded us of what all frozen drinks should taste like, if only manufacturers left all of that excessive sugar out of the mix. Website recipe: Blackberry Noir Smoothie.
- Sangria Rojo, another new addition to the line, is a spicy, dry blend of Rioja and Tempranillo imported from Spain, mixed with orange juice. We haven’t tried this one yet, but it sounds refreshing, and a departure from the other two reds. Website recipe: Champagne Float.
- Champagne Sorbet, according to the release notes, is “tart on the palate with a dry finish that contains hints of yeast.” We keep missing it at retail. Website recipe: Champagne Float.
- Riesling Sorbet seemed like a regular sorbet with a hit of wine flavoring. The flavors were more sophisticated than the May Blush Wine. Though not necessarily a characteristic of the Riesling varietal—raisins and stewed fruits—they are quite tasty and sure to be crowd pleasers. Website recipe: Riesling Sorbet Stuffed Poached Pear.
- Rosé Sorbet is a re-naming of one of the original flavors, May Blush Wine—a good idea, since rosé is a contemporary favorite and the May Blush Wine, while popular in Germany, sounds like something from centuries past. This was the most subtle of the flavors, almost like a grape sorbet with hit of wine. Yet, the wine has notes of peaches and raisins and is the most accessible to a general group of diners, where it won’t be perceived of as “too sophisticated” but as different, special and delicious. Website recipe: Champagne Float.
Some caveats: These sorbets are fragile. If not well-handled by the retailer or in your own home, flavor components can migrate—e.g., sugary components can sink to the bottom of the pint, leaving the top less sweet. It doesn’t mean that the sorbet isn’t delicious—just that each bite might not be consistent. Still, we think the product line is spectacular: If it had national distribution, we would have named it a Top Pick Of The Week. (Hopefully, the online ordering mechanism will go live one of these days.)
Another thing to watch out for is that the first spoonful, especially of the reds, may taste exotic or unusual to many people, because one anticipates a sweet frozen dessert. The reds have sweetness, but are not “sweet.” After consuming the entire dish, however, everyone will be hooked. The whites are more of an easy transition.
The wine sorbets are versatile products that clamor to be served in a variety of ways. We wouldn’t even tamper with them, although one might be tempted to make concoctions with vodka, cognac, framboise, et al. The beauty of this product is that the manufacturer has done all the work, and all you need do is dish it out and take the compliments.
For starters, think of it as:
- A frozen wine cocktail—just add to a wineglass with a straw (wonderful poolside at barbecues or anywhere)
- A palate cleanser between courses—fish and meat, or cheese and dessert (serve small amounts)
- On top of a fresh fruit cocktail or berries, or with a fruit plate
- On a dessert plate in a shot glass
- By themselves, as a sorbet dessert
Do check out the recipes on the website.
We, who enjoy a bit of something cold and sweet after dinner every night, will not be purchasing “regular” sorbet for our personal consumption anytime soon. In vino veritas.
WINE CELLAR SORBETS
Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Rosé, Sangria Rojo
- Individual Pints
$4.99 to $6.99
There is good distribution in Whole Foods Markets and specialty food stores in Florida, New York and New Jersey. Check the store locator at WineCellarSorbets.com.
National distribution is planned, and online sales are anticipated shortly.
Price and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.