Vermouth, not for the back shelf!

January 16, 2018

Vermouth, not for the back shelf!

For years a great divide has split our nation, those who leave bottles of Martini rosso languishing in the back of their cupboard squaring off against those who douse it with lemonade in a form of vintage alcopop.
Fortunately, time moves onwards and neither of the above are regarded as reasonable or delicious. In the last decade, a wave of artisanal, high quality Vermouth has come to our shores and with it new thought and practise as to how to treat, serve and enjoy this curious and multi-faceted beverage. Given all this, what is it and what shall I do with it?
Vermouth is an aromatized wine. This means taking a generally fruit led base wine, often those of northern Italy or south western France and seasoning with herbs, spices, and bittering agents. A bit of sugar, this varies depending on style and a small fortification and you have Vermouth. It’s bitter-sweet, fruity with a whack of spice and ready for consumption.
‘Dry’ Vermouth, based on light, neutral white wines and with very little sugar present make a delicious Aperitif served on ice with a slice of lemon. They are also an essential part of the legendary Martini cocktail, however contrary to the Churchillian myth, a good dose of Vermouth is essential to a good drink. I’ve been known to go as far as 50/50 on a good day.
‘Bianco’ Styles, and other medium-dry wines such as the fabulous Chazalettes, Del Professore (Who are now producing some sensational cask finished offerings, in very small batches) or Cocchi Americano present an incredible stand alone drink and make a lovely cooler, with lots of ice and a little soda water. Perfect with a bowl of olives in the sunshine. Blackdown also make a delectable Silver Birch Vermouth just down the road in Petworth.
‘Rosso’ styles are the most heavily seasoned, fortified and sweetened. They are intensely bitter-sweet and are essential parts of some of the worlds greatest thoughts such as the Negroni, Martinez or the illustrious Manhattan. Offerings from Carpano, specifically their legendary Antica Formula or Cocchi’s Vermouth Di Torino or Chazalettes Rosso are top flight for this, and also drink deliciously on ice after dinner.
There are rules however, to Vermouth. Keep it in the fridge, keep it stoppered and don’t let it sit too long. While fortified, they are wines at heart and won’t last forever.
Written by Rob

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