The Holidays are quickly approaching as we speak. For many people, myself included, memories of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years Eves past cross their minds. Some of those memories are of a certain sparkling wine, called Cold Duck. As the old familiar songs play in the background, the winter chill whips though us and nearby homes are illuminated in their bright, colorful holiday glory, some of us will look back fondly on this beverage, remembering it from many special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas and New Years Eve. You may even remember 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 a few 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. Cold Duck is still readily available at your local grocery store for only a few dollars a bottle. 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 knows 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. It goes great with party hors d’ouvres, like cheese and crackers or olives in a pastry crust.