Twist Again

Ver­sa­tile ver­mouth.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Ver­mouth is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­vival along­side craft spir­its and clas­sic cock­tails. But what ex­actly is it? You may be sur­prised to learn that wine is the base, to which a for­ti­fy­ing grape spirit is added. Botan­i­cals – worm­wood (al­ways), among oth­ers – im­part char­ac­ter. So ver­mouth is essen­tially a flavoured for­ti­fied wine.

Tra­di­tion­ally, herbs, spices and roots were added to wine for their medic­i­nal ben­e­fits; sweet­en­ing the wine made the botan­i­cals more palat­able. And as wine ox­i­dises rapidly when ex­posed to air, the ad­di­tion of yeast-bust­ing spirit ex­tended its shelf life.

Ver­mouth can be sweet or dry, and has an al­co­hol con­tent of be­tween 15% and 22%, which is higher than wine but much lower than most spir­its.

Sweet­ness is part of the style, bal­anc­ing any bit­ter­ness ex­tracted from the botan­i­cals; even those la­belled ‘dry’ have a per­ceiv­able sweet­ness. Darker-coloured ver­mouths are made us­ing red-grape va­ri­eties or through the ad­di­tion of caramel.

Of the botan­i­cals, cit­rus is im­por­tant for fresh­ness, with the peels, leaves and flesh used. Spices add aroma, bit­ter­ness and warmth to the mix via seeds, roots and barks such as anise and car­damom. Flow­ers im­part per­fume, es­pe­cially chamomile and el­der­flower. Herbs add com­plex­ity and depth; thyme and mint are pop­u­lar, and many Aus­tralian ver­mouths also in­clude na­tive in­gre­di­ents, such as fin­ger lime and le­mon myr­tle.

The ex­act blend of botan­i­cals used to make a ver­mouth bev­er­age is usu­ally a closely guarded se­cret, as the ul­ti­mate aim of the pro­duc­ers is to cre­ate a ‘sig­na­ture’ taste.

As with white wine, al­ways store an open bot­tle of ver­mouth in the fridge. And for max­i­mum fresh­ness, con­sume the con­tents within one month.

Try these RE­GAL ROGUE LIVELY WHITE, $36/500ML Strong cit­rus over­tones and del­i­cate sweet­ness. Semil­lon base; botan­i­cals in­clude le­mon myr­tle, desert lime, na­tive thyme, el­der­flower and grape­fruit. 16.5% abv. DOLIN BLANC VER­MOUTH DE CHAMBÉRY, $30/750ML Slightly sweet and re­fresh­ing, with blos­som and gen­tle herb notes. Ugni blanc base; 30+ botan­i­cals. 16% abv. MAIDENII DRY VER­MOUTH, $50/750ML Wood, spice and herb ac­cents. Viog­nier base; 30+ botan­i­cals, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian na­tives. 19% abv. NOILLY PRAT ORIG­I­NAL FRENCH DRY VER­MOUTH, $32/750ML Wood-age­ing is cen­tral to this dry, bal­anced, am­ber-toned drop. Great depth and com­plex­ity. 18% abv.

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