June 2022 Vermouth Round Up
Hey y'all, just some quick housekeeping before we jump into the fortifieds. What started as a simple blog has grown substantially over the years and over the coming months, I'll be slowly updating the blog and converting to a much easier to navigate website format. I figure, if the point of this blog is to share information, that information should be easy to find! It will hopefully operate as more of a cocktail and vermouth database and will remain uncluttered and free of ads.
Anyway, for a vermouth focused blog, I haven't written much about vermouth in the last few months, so here we go!
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!
Antica Torino Dry
Producer: Antica Torino
Wine Base: Cortese
Known Botanicals: at least 6 including wormwood, muscat yarrow, sage, thistle, centaury, and hyssop
Sugar: 33 g/l
Nose: gentian, mint, cinnamon, licorice, oregano, marzipan
Palate: cinchona, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, white peach, marzipan
Finish: cinchona, clove, lemon, dried hay, mint, orange
Additional Notes: Green-tinted straw color. Medium body with bright, almost champagne acidity. Fortified with neutral wheat grain distillate. A vermouth lover's vermouth, this is one heckuva dry vermouth. A bit more oxidized grape than you typically get from Italian dry vermouth. Benefits from a little time to breathe once the bottle is opened.
I absolutely adore this vermouth. Dry vermouth is generally my favorite style of fortified wine and this is an exceptional offering. Typically Italian in the sense that it is bold, bitter, herbaceous, and certainly not lacking in subtlety, there is no application this vermouth doesn't shine in. It can hold up to dilution so simply serving it over ice or with soda water or tonic is a viable option unlike most dry vermouths which are easily lost in water. It makes for one heckuva Martini, and as I consider this a real vermouth lover's vermouth, an even better 50/50 with navy strength gin.
Contratto Americano Rosso
Wine Base: Cortese
Known Botanicals: 25 total including gentian, cinchona, ginger, mint leaves, hibiscus flower, hawthorn flower, nettle leaves, angelica roots, bitter orange peel, rhubarb roots, sage, sweet orange peel, aloe, juniper, carnation
Sugar: 200 g/l
Nose: gentian, raspberry, roasted pineapple, orange, cherry
Palate: cinchona, balsamic vinegar, gentian, vanilla, maple syrup, allspice
Finish: mesquite smoke, gentian, vanilla, nutmeg, bay leaf, cola
Additional Notes: Dull reddish brown. The sweetest fortified wine Contratto produces. Bright and bitter with a surprisingly drying finish considering the sugar content. Has a slightly savory edge to it which I found fussy in classic cocktail applications. Plays a bit more like a digestif than an aperitif.
I'm not gonna lie, I expected a lot more from this bottle. Contratto Bianco is one of my desert island vermouths, Contratto Fernet is hands down my favorite Fernet, and the Vermouth Rosso, Bitter, and Apertif are all standouts in their respective categories. Unfortunately, the Americano Rosso just didn't do it for me. It was fussy as a substitute for a quinquina or light Americano, probably on account of its high sugar content, but it worked well in place of sweet red vermouth. That said, I'd much rather have the slightly leaner, more herbaceous Contratto Rosso in my drinks. On its own, I found it a more enjoyable digestif than aperitif.
Producer: Mata, imported by Ole & Obrigado
Wine Base: Godello
Known Botanicals: at least 5 including wormwood, bitter orange, sage, thyme, star anise
Nose: tamarind, clove, orange, sea salt, vanilla, worshestershire
Palate: brown sugar, bananas foster, vanilla, cinchona, orange, fig
Finish: cinchona, vanilla, allspice, cacao, orange, strawberry
Additional Notes: Green tinted straw yellow. Medium body. Sweetened with grape must. Fortified with neutral grape distillate. Botanicals are macerated in base wine for 40 days before filtration and fortification.
I don't know how many times I need to say this, but people need to be drinking more Spanish vermouth. A tasty little sipper on its own or with tonic, I found it to be successful in a variety of cocktails. It made for an excellent Scofflaw, a tasty El Presidente, and even worked in a Corpse Reviver #2 on account of its quinine-forward bitterness. Over a particularly hot stretch of days, I lost a fair amount of the bottle by simply pouring it over lemon sorbet.
Producer: Mata, imported by Ole & Obrigado
Wine Base: 90% Mencía, 10% Godello
Known Botanicals: at least 21 including wormwood, wall germander, blessed thistle, centaury, hyssop, sage, hops, clove, elderflower, saffron, star anise, bitter orange peel, cardamom, coriander seed, vanilla, elecampane, gentian, ceylon cinnamon, croton bark, cinchona, pomegranate bark
Nose: thyme, red wine, raspberry, earthy and mild
Palate: cinchona, blackberry, orange, cinnamon, red wine, tannic
Finish: lemon, blackberry, vanilla, cacao, sour cherry
Additional Notes: Very dark red-tinted brown. Medium body. Sweetened with grape must. Fortified with neutral grape distillate. Botanicals are macerated in base wine for 18 months before filtration and fortification. One of those rare sweet red vermouths actually made from primarily red wine. Perfectly balanced between bitter, herbs, and spice with pleasant acidity and prominent bittereness.
I'm finding that I really enjoy the rare sweet red vermouth that actually uses red wine as its base. While not as wine-forward as say, La Fuerza, there's plenty of red wine tannins to make this particularly enjoyable on its own, especially when paired with food. In a Negroni, the confectionary notes of the vermouth were on full display, lending a particularly strong cacao note that almost made the cocktail drink like a chocolate Negroni (this is a good). I also found it that it made a shockingly successful Manhattan with Proof and Wood's Roulette Rye. Normally, Spanish vermouth tends to be a bit too lean to make perfectly balanced rye Manhattan without a tweak or two, but I found the profile and, most surprisingly, the body to be spot on. When diluted, I got more of a Dr. Pepper vibe than the typical Coca Cola profile common in sweet red vermouth.
Check out the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:
The Complete Guide to Dry Vermouth
Sweet White Vermouth
The Complete Guide to Sweet White Vermouth
Sweet Red Vermouth
The Complete Guide to Sweet Red Vermouth
Quinquina and Americano
The Complete Guide to Quinquina and Americano
Tasting Guide to Gentian Liqueurs
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