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  • Writer's pictureBrian Tasch

Italian Sweet White Vermouth Tasting Guide

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Following the order of events:

  1. The Italians are credited with creating sweet vermouth in 1786.

  2. Noilly Prat's dry style of vermouth followed in 1813. Dolin is credited for the sweet white Chambery style in 1821. Both styles further differentiated the regional differences between what we now call French and Italian sweet vermouth.

  3. Finally, the Italians tried their hand at the French white style, resulting in bianco vermouth.

Don't let the pale appearance fool you – sweet white (bianco) vermouth has the sugar content and flavor profile closer to sweet red vermouth than dry vermouth. These Italian offerings are often as sweet as, or sweeter than, some traditional sweet red vermouth.

Just about every bottle of Italian bianco vermouth is an absolute joy to drink. Exceptional bottlings include the perfectly balanced Alessio Bianco, Contratto Bianco, and Bordiga Bianco, which all highlight a wonderfully bitter backbone to support the balance of fruit, herbs, and spices.

The only middling expressions are Carpano Bianco, Cinzano Bianco, Martini and Rossi Bianco which I found relied too heavily on vanilla.

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!

Alessio Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Tempus Fugit

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Muscato, Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc

Known Botanicals: at least 15, grand and petite wormwood

Sugar: N/A

Nose: pear, strawberry, banana, lemon, pine, gingerbread, almond

Palate: bitter orange, honeysuckle, stone fruit, vanilla, marjoram, licorice, wormwood

Finish: wormwood, vanilla, cinnamon, marjoram, pear, grapefruit

Additional Notes: Very pale golden appearance, light body. Wonderfully balanced.

Berto Aperitiv dla Tradission

Origin: Italy

Producer: Berto, distributed by Kermit Lynch

ABV: 17%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Cortese, Arneis

Known Botanicals: at least 16, wormwood, bitter orange, gentian, cardamom, vanilla, coriander, mint, mace, hops, thyme, marjoram, lemon, cinnamon, clove, rhubarb, angelica

Sugar: 140 g/l

Nose: vanilla, cinnamon, raisin, gentian, lemon, marzipan, marjoram, fennel, straw

Palate: grapefruit, cinnamon, wormwood, gentian, mint, eucalyptus, orange, lemon

Finish: cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon, wormwood, orange, clove

Additional Notes: Pale amber appearance.

Bordiga Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Bordiga, distributed by Oliver McCrum Wines

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Moscato

Known Botanicals: at least 35, wormwood, gentian root, gentian flower, nutmeg, coriander, fennel seed, juniper, cinchona, marjoram, lime, mint, cardamom, orange peel, pepper, vanilla, genzianella flower, sage

Sugar: 190 g/l

Nose: lime, sage, juniper, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, grapefruit, black pepper

Palate: fennel, gentian, chamomile, honey, dark chocolate, toffee, bread

Finish: vanilla, cinnamon, clove, orange, chamomile, nutmeg

Additional Notes: Straw yellow color. Light and oily body. Warming confectionary notes perfectly balanced with bitter citrus.

Carpano Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Carpano

ABV: 14.9%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay, Cortese

Known Botanicals: at least 12, wormwood, thyme, fennel, coriander, ginger, clove, chamomile, hyssop

Sugar: 178 g/l

Nose: gentian, honey, moss, lemon oil, anise, coriander, eucalyptus

Palate: honey, lemon, pine, grapefruit, cinnamon, vanilla, orange, sweet cream

Finish: mineralic, grapefruit, lemon, cherry, gentian, honey, late anise

Additional Notes: Light straw color. Reminiscent of a bitter orange creamsicle.

Cinzano Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Cinzano, distributed by Campari Group

ABV: 15%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc

Known Botanicals: at least 4, wormwood, clove, cinnamon, gentian

Sugar: N/A

Nose: cinnamon, apple cider, sea salt, marjoram, thyme

Palate: ripe stone fruit, honey, clove, cinnamon, lemon, vanilla

Finish: gentian, grapefruit, cinnamon, clove, vanilla

Additional Notes: Light straw yellow. Medium/light body. Pleasantly bitter and confectionary, big on dry baking spice notes.

Contratto Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Contratto

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Cortese, Chardonnay

Known Botanicals: at least 50, wormwood, hawthorn leaves & flowers, coriander, marjoram, bay laurel, chamomile, yellow sweet clover, aloe juice, cinnamon, mint, ginger, angelica root, cardamom, nutmeg, bitter orange peel, gentian, nettle, sweet orange peel, carob tree pods, pimento seeds, felon herb, rhubarb root, hibiscus, sage, cinchona bark, lemon peel, bergamot orange peel, licorice root, sandalwood

Sugar: 190 g/l

Nose: sage, marjoram, lemon, licorice, sea salt, cumin, coriander, curry leaf, gentian

Palate: gentian, wormwood, sea salt, lemon, sage, fennel, vanilla, orange, cinnamon

Finish: wormwood, rhubarb, orange, cinnamon, chamomile, sea salt, cinchona

Additional Notes: Light golden color. Medium body. Bitter through and through. Dense salinity and candied grapefruit notes.

Del Professore Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Del Professore

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Muscato

Known Botanicals: at least 15, wormwood

Sugar: N/A

Nose: licorice, straw, mahogany, tea, vanilla, clove, tarragon

Palate: ginger, orange, cinnamon, vanilla, rosemary, charcoal, smoked wood

Finish: cinchona, gentian, clove, cranberry, rosemary, anise

Additional Notes: Rich golden color. Oily body. Smoky, bitter herbal notes concede to the confectionary notes when diluted.

Mancino Bianco Ambrato

Origin: Italy

Producer: Mancino

ABV: 16%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc

Known Botanicals: 37 total, wormwood, angelica, chamomile, elderflower, gentian, cinchona, mint, ginger, cardamom, licorice, sweet orange peel, pink grapefruit peel

Sugar: N/A

Nose: angelica, chamomile, elderflower, mint

Palate: sweet orange, ginger, pink grapefruit peel, aloe, chamomile

Finish: quinine, cardamom, licorice

Additional Notes: Golden-amber color. Sweet without the bitter backbone found in other Mancino vermouths.

Mancino Sakura (2018)

Origin: Italy

Producer: Mancino

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc

Known Botanicals: 20 total, wormwood, cherry blossom petals, violet petals

Sugar: N/A

Nose: orange, vanilla, cinnamon, lychee, pineapple, elderflower, papaya, honeysuckle

Palate: cherry blossom, rose, lavender, gentian, grapefruit, lemon oil, raspberry

Finish: wormwood, lemon, vanilla, cherry blossom

Additional Notes: Light rose color. Limited release originally for the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Tokyo.

Martini and Rossi Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Martini & Rossi, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 15%

Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc, Catarratto

Known Botanicals: at least 14, two different wormwood varieties, dittany, raspberry, vanilla flowers, rose, violet, chamomile, Spanish lemon peel, bitter orange peel, cascarilla bark, quassia bark, orris root, Ceylon cinnamon

Sugar: 160 g/l

Nose: cumin, oregano, tobacco ash, bay leaf

Palate: vanilla, baked apple, cinnamon, lemon oil, bay leaf

Finish: marshmallow, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon

Additional Notes: Pale yellow tint. A vanilla bomb. Light/medium body.

Martini and Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato

Origin: Italy

Producer: Martini & Rossi, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Moscato D'Asti

Known Botanicals: at least 18, three different wormwood varieties, red sandalwood, Roman chamomile, Chinese rhubarb, dittany, raspberry, vanilla flowers, rose, violet, Spanish lemon peel, bitter orange peel, cascarilla bark, quassia bark, orris root, Ceylon cinnamon, Ecuadorian yellow cinchona bark

Sugar: 169 g/l

Nose: honey, honeysuckle, black pepper, peach, clove, banana

Palate: woody bitterness, lemon oil, honey, clove, strawberry, black pepper, Chinese rhubarb

Finish: cinnamon, vanilla, grapefruit, nutty, sea salt, black pepper

Additional Notes: Deep amber color (hence “Ambrato”). Vermouth di Torino. Not technically a bianco vermouth as Martini describes it as a new style, but sugar content and color allow it to straddle the line. Rich and complex.

Scarpa Bianco

Origin: Italy

Producer: Scarpa

ABV: 17%

Wine Base: Cortese (70%), Muscato (30%)

Known Botanicals: at least 8, wormwood, angelica seed, bitter orange peel, green cardamom, cinchona bark, Swertia bough, coriander seed, elecampane root

Sugar: 145 g/l

Nose: gentian, poppy, spearmint, grapefruit, eucalyptus, green bell pepper, coriander

Palate: lemon, grapefruit, gentian, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg

Finish: grapefruit, vanilla, cinnamon, cinchona

Additional Notes: Golden color. Vermouth di Torino. Thinner body with a bitter palate that sweetens on the finish.

Notably missing: Gancia Bianco, Montanaro Bianco, and Parini Bianco. Will accept donations of any missing vermouths.

Vermouth Guides

Check the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:

Dry Vermouth

Sweet White Vermouth

Sweet Red Vermouth

Quinquina and Americano

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