July Vermouth Round Up: Argentina's La Fuerza
Argentina has entered the chat.
La Fuerza (translation: the force), the world's first commercially produced and exported Argentinian vermouth, has arrived in the US, and I'm happy to have snagged some bottles upon their arrival.
In the US, Argentinians have a reputation for their voracious consumption of Fernet Branca and red wine, both of which are often mixed with cola. In fact, 75% of the world's Fernet Branca is consumed in Argentina. This penchant for the often-polarizing amaro helps to understand the palate and preferences of the region, namely the preference for bold and bitter flavors.
And you better believe both the Blanco and Rojo are undeniably bold and bitter.
I've heard that as a general rule, where wine is produced, vermouth will follow. Many of the world's major wine-producing countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Greece, the USA, Australia, and now Argentina all produce and export their own bitter fortified wines.
A common criticism of "New World" vermouth is a lack of adherence to "tradition." My biggest nitpick tends to be when fortified wines call themselves "vermouth" (translation: wormwood) but contain either no wormwood or any notable bitterness on the palate. Thankfully, La Fuerza is hitting the market with the intent to put the wermut back in vermut.
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!
La Fuerza Bianco
Producer: La Fuerza
Wine Base: Torrontes
Known Botanicals: at least 40, including wormwood (artemesia mendozana), carqueja, lemon verbena, creosote bush, sage, elderberry, gentian, grapefruit peel, orange peel, thyme, mint
Nose: cinnamon, honey, gentian, coriander, tarragon, mint, juniper, white sesame
Palate: wormwood, lemon, coriander, tarragon, orange, gentian, cinnamon, honey
Finish: cinchona, wormwood, lemon, peach, eucalyptus, mint, bay leaf, coriander, cinnamon
Additional Notes: Orange-hued straw yellow. The world's first commercially produced and exported Argentinian vermouth. Exceptionally bitter and all the better for it. Medium-light bodied with a bit of an oily texture. Works great in cocktails.
I love this stuff. It's always a nice break from the norm when a sweet white vermouth shies away from the expected vanilla/cinnamon/orange backbone I've come to expect from the category. This uniquely bitter and herbaceous vermouth's profile leans more toward Contratto Bianco rather than Dolin Blanc.
Once the bottle opened up, I just couldn't stop. While I was tempted to simply drink the whole dang bottle over ice or with soda water, it works incredibly well in cocktails.
It made for a delicious White Negroni with Suze and Broker's London Dry Gin. It was overpowering in a Bamboo but in the absolute best way. Because it is so savory, it makes for an excellent stand-in for tequila in a Margarita (2 oz La Fuerza Blanco, .75 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, .5 oz lime, 1 tsp agave, 9 drops saline solution). And, because it is both so dry and herbaceous, it worked wonderfully as a substitute for dry vermouth in Ezra Star's Finding Peggy. I enjoyed the last few ounces as Cobblers and Juleps.
La Fuerza Rojo
Producer: La Fuerza
Wine Base: Malbec
Known Botanicals: at least 40, including wormwood (artemesia mendozana), carqueja, lemon verbena, creosote bush, sage, elderberry, gentian, grapefruit peel, orange peel
Nose: cinnamon, gentian, blackberry, almond, malbec wine, bay leaf, plum, clove, ash
Palate: wormwood, malbec wine, blackberry, gentian, lemon, plum, black pepper, black currant, cacao
Finish: wormwood, black pepper, blackberry, cacao, plum, allspice, lemon, black currant
Additional Notes: Brilliantly deep ruby-red. The world's first commercially produced and exported Argentinian vermouth. Unlike the vast majority of sweet red vermouth, La Fuerza Rojo is made with a red wine base (Malbec). Sweetened with grape must. In cocktails, it can straddle the line between bitter wormwood-heavy vermouth and a tannic quinquina.
You could finish reading this post, or you could do yourself a favor and immediately go buy a bottle of La Fuerza Rojo.
There aren't many comparable vermouths out there - the equally unique Mancino Rosso Amaranto comes closest. Because of its tannic red wine base - a rarity in the world of vermouth - and the fact that it is sweetened with grape must, it reminded me a bit more of red wine-based quinquina like Dubonnet Rouge or Lillet Rouge. Unlike those French fortified wines, La Fuerza proudly declares itself a Vermouth with its incredibly punchy, bitter wormwood on full display.
There is no wrong way to consume this vermouth. Drink it neat and embrace its Malbec wine base. Add soda, or better yet, add tonic. You may find you've gone through half the bottle before you even think about mixing it into cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, with its low sugar content and bitter profile, La Fuerza Rojo made for a delicious but needlessly dry and thin Manhattan. Thankfully, this is easily corrected with a mere .5 tsp of demerara syrup. Likewise, a Corpse Reviver #1 was tasty but needed a tiny bit of extra sugar for body. It also made for an aggressive Negroni, which I embraced.
After noting how dry and tannic this vermouth is, I started using it more as a quinquina in cocktails. It makes for a delicious Corpse Reviver #2, Twentieth Century, and Sno-Cone. It works even better in a Finding Peggy than I recall Dubonnet Rouge working. In fact, just about any cocktail calling for quinquina will probably successfully incorporate La Fuerza Rojo instead.
And of course, you can bet I tried this with Coca-Cola, and it was heckin' delicious. I had trouble determining what kind of sweetener Coca-Cola uses for their Argentinian products, so I opted for Mexican Coke since I prefer it over American Coke.
Check out 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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