American Sweet White Vermouth Tasting Guide
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
There aren't actually any American vermouth producers explicitly calling their vermouths "white." Some will classify themselves closest to a white (blanc, bianco, blanco) but are quick to note their products do not fit neatly into any particular category.
With the exception of Brovo, American sweet white vermouth producers tend to keep most manner and method of production secret – the best that retailers and distributors can do is offer a categorical approximation. The few bottles I could find that may fit the bill are either widely unavailable or wildly expensive.
Strict US laws on all things wormwood require pricey thujone testing, so many producers opt for alternative botanicals as bittering agents. American law vaguely states that as long as vermouth generally tastes like vermouth, it can be sold and marketed as such. As one can imagine, this is a point of contention between European and American producers.
Some American producers go out of their way to insist that, even though the origins of the word vermouth translate to "wormwood," vermouth may or may not have ever historically been defined by its wormwood. In an attempt to sidestep the entire debate, many opt to draw attention to their complex wine bases, non-traditional botanicals, and resulting flavor profiles.
I believe many American vermouth producers are certainly making aromatized wines but fall back on the “vermouth” labeling to secure shelf space and distribution in a crowded market. This has turned out to be a double-edged sword. Some American producers (like Vya) make vermouth that fits neatly into marketing expectations – these vermouths have stood the test of time as a result. However, I feel many other producers would find more success by defining their product as a new category of aromatized wine rather than insisting that laws are loose enough to get away with calling their product vermouth.
Americans don't tend to drink vermouth as the Europeans do – Americans are usually using vermouth in bar and cocktail programs. While some American vermouths may adhere to expectations, many do not – these unfortunately have little to offer most beverage programs. And since most American vermouths have such a strong focus on their wine bases, many are exorbitantly expensive for use in bar programs or home use and have inconsistent distribution. As a result of this, I have yet to taste several American vermouths and honestly can't tell if some of them are still on the market.
If you're new to the world of vermouth, check out my Introduction to Vermouth post to learn some basics, introduce yourself to some of the terminology used, and get a general overview of how these guides are structured (and why). Then join me back here to get into the details!
Brovo Pretty Blanc Floral
Producer: Brovo Spirits
Wine Base: Pinot Gris
Known Botanicals: at least 7, vanilla bean, cardamom, elderflower, chamomile, lemon peel, comfrey, angelica
Sugar: 80 g/l
Nose: green cardamom, elderflower, ginger, lemon, line, clove, Mandarin orange, pear
Palate: green cardamom, elderflower, vanilla, mandarin orange, lemon, mugwort, hay, ginger, allspice
Finish: green cardamom, elderflower, clove, mandarin orange, lemon, lime, vanilla, hay
Additional Notes: Golden orange-tinted straw color. Medium-light body. Unfiltered which results in a slightly cloudy appearance. Sweetened with agave nectar. By EU classification, its sugar content would place it in the Semi-Dry category. The botanicals are macerated in both the wine base and the fortifying neutral spirit. Very floral and confectionary with a pleasant bitterness. Full of green cardamom, elderflower, and Mandarin orange from nose to finish. Looks like I picked up an older bottle as the new bottlings have updated labeling and have replaced "floral" with "blanc."
Notably missing: Atsby Amberthorn, Hammer and Tongs Sac'Resine, and Imbue Bittersweet. Will accept donations of any missing vermouths.
Check the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:
Sweet White Vermouth
Sweet Red Vermouth
Quinquina and Americano
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