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Alessio Vermouth di Torino Rosso
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture that is virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes are grown just about everywhere throughout the country—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The defining geographical feature of the country is the Apennine Mountain range, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south. The island of Sicily nearly grazes the toe of Italy’s boot, while Sardinia lies to the country’s west. Climate varies significantly throughout the country, with temperature being somewhat more dependent on elevation than latitude, though it is safe to generalize that the south is warmer. Much of the highest quality viticulture takes place on gently rolling, picturesque hillsides.
Italy boasts more indigenous varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but their use is declining in popularity, especially as younger growers begun to take interest in rediscovering forgotten local specialties. Sangiovese is the most widely planted variety in the country, reaching its greatest potential in parts of Tuscany. Nebbiolo is the prized grape of Piedmont in the northwest, producing singular, complex and age-worthy wines. Other important varieties include Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course, Pinot Grigio.
Historically a dry, herb-infused, and sometimes pleasantly bitter fine wine, the ancient Greeks and Romans valued it for its great medicinal properties. They especially favored the addition of Artemisia absinthium, or wormwood, which they believed to have significant gastric curative properties. In the 16th century, a Bavarian medicinal wine flavored with wormwood called wermuth became popular in the French bourgeois circles. They called it vermutwein—soon becoming simply known in English as, vermouth.
Today vermouth isn’t regarded so much as a medicinal product but its variations are indispensable to any modern mixologist. The actual concept of modern, large-scale vermouth production started with the Piemontese in the 18th century where proximity to the Alps facilitated a great supply of desired herbs. Brands such as Cinzano, Martini, and then the French, Noilly Prat, led the way to the modern cocktail age.
Typically vermouths are Italian if red and sweet and French if golden and drier in character. The Italian Carpano shows deep flavors like cocoa, almond, marmalade, toffee, mint and bitter herbs while Contratto is sweet and more straightforward. Today France produces a delicately spiced vermouth called Chambéry from Savoie and Lillet of Bordeaux, owned by Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou in St. Julien, is made from Sauvignon blanc and Semillon.