Aussie Vermouth Tasting

Vermouth has a long and fascinating history that beautifully blurs the lines of apothecary, art and medicine. The word “vermouth” is derived from the German word for “wormwood”, which still remains one of vermouth’s primary infused botanicals. The roots dates back millennia with evidence of herb and botanical infused alcohols discovered in China around 7000 BC and even remains found in ancient Greece. Throughout Asia and mainland Europe its use spread down the millennia predominantly as a medicinal and ceremonial drink. Vermouth, as a commercial product however, originated around Turin, Italy in the 18th century. It can arguably be attributed one man, Antonio Benedetto Carpano and to the creation of the king of Vermouths Carpano Anttica Formula and of course the very civilised ‘apertivo hour’. Shortly thereafter, lighter, drier styles emerged from Chambéry and Marseilles, France as well as the more broody and darker, nutty, styles that have surfaced from Spain in recent years.

The modern-day evolution has been driven by several factors worldwide. One of the defining ones is the now thriving, worldwide cocktail scene – and particularly gin-based cocktails which vermouth lends itself so perfectly to. The interest in ‘craft’ gin as a category itself is booming both here and abroad and Vermouth has followed suit. Increasingly adventurous drinkers (and producers) demanding, new tastes and flavours have also been a keen inspiration for this new found interest in Vermouth. No doubt in Australia our keen adventurous traveling spirit (pardon the pun) which has seen us work, live and play overseas bringing back with us more European sensibilities when it comes one of our favourite pastimes – drinking.

Today the choice is endless and the styles diverse. No longer is it just a foil for the martini, Vermouth is increasingly being consumed as drink on its own. Its relatively low alcohol (when compared to spirits) lends itself beautifully as an apertivo and, depending on the style, a wonderful digestive. We have personally been watching this category grow and have been watching with eager interest each time a new vermouth comes across our desk.

This tasting is the first in a series we hope to bring you this summer. First round is an all local affair with every product made in Victoria. Its an exciting line-up and first for us here. We are also delighted to have Gilles Lapalau here to not only talk about his vermouth but to present the only reference guide on Vermouth you will ever need – The Book of Vermouth. This is a fabulous look at Vermouth beautifully presented, informative and fun. Below is a brief on all the producers.

PHILIP LOBLEY

The Philip Lobley Vermouth is somewhat inspired by Lillet confesses Philip. However, this has a little more rustic charm and pours cloudy as the vermouth itself is un-fined and un-filtered. Its based on the barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc with a fairly classic range of botanicals and herbs.

CORRELL

Another Lillet inspired apertif from Mandy Jones at Jones Winery in Rutherglen. This was inspired by her time in Bordeaux learning about the how this famous drop is produced. CORRELL, named after their vivacious mother whom embraced the time to relax, reflect and watch the world go by – a worthy inspiration. This is something a little different based on a secret blend of fortified wine, orange & spices. And yes we asked but she won’t give up the blend.

CAUSES AND CURES

Made from hand-picked, bio-dynamic viognier grapes, whole bunch presses and wild fermented in French puncheons and barriques. This craft, small batch vermouth has exacting measures of local and imported botanicals, the most influential on the style being wormwood, juniper, gentian, bay leaf, cinchona and seville orange. The botanicals are macerated separately in the fortifying spirit (a distillate of the mother wine) and the blended aromatic spirit is then used to fortify the mother wine to 17% alcohol. The resulting vermouth is racked, coarse filtered and bottled with only a minimal amount of sulphur. Causes and Cures

ALLIES

Hardly surprising that this awesome little drop is bases on Pinot Noir being made by Mornington producer and Allies winemaker David ‘Chappy’ Chapman. Over 10 different botanicals from a selection of your usual suspects then steeped in a single barrel of fortified wine for over 6 weeks. From the French vernacular which literally translates as “five to seven” or the two hours for friends and colleagues to pause and take stock before going home to enjoy a drink. It can also refer to a time used for a tryst between lovers or a moment to visit one’s mistress. Naughty boy Chappy!

CASTAGNA

The vermouth came out of the terrible 2011 vintage which Julian rather than throw wine he didn’t think was up to scratch for the market was turned into alcohol – to his surprise the alcohol was delicious! Adam had been encouraging Julian to think about making a vermouth so they had a go; it took a couple of years to get it right.
“It was very much a suck it and see experiment but eventually it started tasting very interesting. By that time we had used more than 32 different herbs or spices. Some we had to wait and grow specially.” Julian Castagna
After a new category for Vermouth at the Melbourne wine awards was created Julian entered his and won the trophy. The rest, is as they say, history.