The Return of Vergano

(NOTE: The same article appears on our wine blog, but since I'm doing double-duty today I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone)

Most people would put vermouth and a number of other wine-based aperitivos into the "spirits" category, but the truth is these products are more wine than spirit. Sure, you might mix them into a cocktail, or add a few ice cubes with a dash of soda, but the fundamental building block of all vermouth is wine. One of our favorite and most-beloved vermouth producers is finally back at K&L after a year-long absence due to lack of inventory. Mauro Vergano was a student of oenology and viticulture, but soon began working as a flavor and fragrance expert as a chemist in Italy. It was there that he trained his nose to recognize and identify complex combinations of aromatics; the perfect training for creating flavor-enhanced versions of his initial passion: wine.

After more than fifteen years in the vermouth and aromatized wine business, Mauro is finally getting his due stateside, in the midst of a full-scale cocktail and spirits renaissance. His Moscato-based Chinato is the only one of its kind on the market, combining the inherent fruity and floral flavors of the muscat grape and combining it with the bitter amargo of quinine. The result is like Lillet on steroids; an explosion on your palate. He also has the divine Americano: a Grignolino-based red aperitif that takes a juicy, dark-fruited Italian red and adds bitter herbs and spices to create a Campari-like aperitivo that's all natural. Try it instead of the ubiquitous Italian liqueur in your next Negroni cocktail and watch your taste buds go into overdrive. His Bianco Vermouth is made from two white grapes—cortese and moscato—and is the gold standard for any soda-based, pre-meal cocktail. Add a splash of sparkling water and an orange twist, then put your feet up and embrace the good life because—let me tell you—if you're drinking Vergano products, you're living it.

Welcome back, Vergano. It's been too long.

Vergano "Luli" Moscato Chinato $42.99 — 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 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.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll