Are you like me--fully into both the wine and spirits world? Completely enveloped in your cellar full of Bordeaux, yet simultaneously checking the fills on your single malt collection? Then this is where both of your worlds collide together into a netherworld known as fortified, aromatized wines. Port and sherry are still technically wine. Vermouth, on the other hand, falls into the spirits department here at K&L, which is fantastic for me because I'm obsessed with this stuff. My former mentor and ex-K&L German wine buyer Jeff Vierra left the store a few years back to open up his own import/distribution operation and he began representing the Louis/Dressner portfoilio: one of the most prestigious books due to its dedication to discovering all-natural, hand-harvested, unmanipulated wines from small farmers around Europe.
A few years back they added Mauro Vergano's products to their selection. We were all completely smitten here at the Redwood City store, but then the supply chain fell apart and we were out of stock for a long period of time. Finally, I heard from Jeff this week that the Vergano wines were once again available and that they had added a new Chinato and Vermouth Bianco to the mix. I was ecstatic. Now that they're in stock, I'm happy to report back with my findings on their quality: in short, they're enough to make any serious cocktail geek wet their pants. If you thought quality vermouth was only for sweet expressions like Carpano, you might want to check out this Bianco. I've been nipping on it for the last ten minutes and I can't get enough. Man, I can't wait to get home and experiment with this thing!!
I'll post a quick summary of each here, but you should visit the Louis/Dressner page for more info. Make sure you click on the little plus signs to expand each section and provide more detailed information.
Vergano "Luli" Moscato Chinato $46.99 - The wine used here is Moscato d’Asti with a higher alcohol content (more than 10%) compared to the ones that are commonly available. The Moscato comes from the prestigious winery of Vittorio Bera & Figli. Their Moscato’s fragrance and its full-bodiedness meld perfectly with the aromatic extract composed of citrus zest, cinnamon and vanilla. These fresh and sweet aromas are balanced by the bitter flavour of the China (Calisaya and Succirubra) which give it a persistent taste that is absolutely unique.
Vergano Americano Aperitif $36.99 - Think of the Vergano Americano as a traditional Vermouth/Bitter Piedmontese aperitif. It uses Grignolino as the base wine rather than Nebbiolo, and like most vermouths, it contains herbal and aromatic components. In order to transform a Vermouth into an Americano you have to integrate the herbs at its base with other more bitter ones like Gentianella, citrus zest like Bitter Orange and Chinotto.The result is like an Italian wine version of Campari or Cynar. Try using it in a Negroni or with soda and a twist. Absolutely lovely stuff.
Vergano Nebbiolo Chinato $42.99 - Made with Nebbiolo from Barbaresco that comes from the Rabajà hill. It is produced by Giuseppe Cortese’s winery in Barbaresco; this is a small-scale producer who produces excellent quality wine. The extract is the result of a complex mixture of aromatizing substances. Besides China in its Calisaya and Succirubra varieties, there are particularly bitter ingredients like Chinese Rabarbaro and Ginseng, while the aromatic component comes from spices and herbs like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, bay leaf, etc. What makes this wine characteristic is the extreme persistence of its aroma due to its perfectly balanced ratio between sugar, alcohol and aromatic extract content.
Vergano Vermouth Bianco $42.99 - Vermouth is the only fortified and aromatized wine with a precise historical origin. It was first concocted 1786 in Turin by Benedetto Carpano. Since then the Vermouth has become one of the most famous drinks in the world both as aperitif or as an ingredient in cocktails. Its name derives from the German word "Vermuth" which means Absinthe, one of its main components. Originally, the base wine was Moscato, but different wines have been used over time. In the case of the Vergano Bianco, the base wine is a blend of dry Moscato and Cortese, another typical white grape of Piedmont. This mixture gives a correct balance between acidity and flavor.The mixture of herbs and spices is very complex, dominated by herbs such as thyme, marjoram, basil, oregano that provide fresh and aromatic notes. The Absinthe component mainly in the variety "Gentile" contributes to the bitter taste. As is the tradition Vermouth should be light yellow, clear, sweet. while also bitter and fragrant.