Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Vermouth Revival in Jerez

Like Sherry, sales of vermouth peaked in the 1970s, and again like Sherry, it is making a comeback. Sherry producers have long produced a Jerez style of vermouth, however as sales fell many dropped it from their lists, but now that it is fashionable again, along with gin and tonic and cocktails, they are re-introducing it, often using the original secret formula and even label.

Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with herbs, flowers, roots and barks with various levels of sweetening. The idea of flavouring wine is ancient. It was done either to obscure a wine’s imperfections or to give it medicinal properties. One of the principal ingredients was wormwood, which gives the product its name; it derives from the German “wermut”, and was considered good for stomach ailments. It caught on at the end of the XVIII century when it became more of a drink than a medicine, and by the end of the XIX century it had become an important cocktail ingredient.

There are two principal styles: dry white and sweet red. Most vermouth is made from white wine and some contain ingredients which give the red colour. The Jerez vermouths are usually made from a base of Oloroso and PX which provide natural colour, sweetness and that unique Jerez flavour. Vermouth is now so popular that it is sometimes available in bars from the barrel. There follows a list of the current Vermouths from the Marco de Jerez.

Vermouth La Copa: González Byass From an original 1896 recipe, includes over 8 yo Oloroso and PX plus wormwood, savoury, clove, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, angelica and chinchona bark (quinine). Interestingly the La Copa symbol was that used to brand the horses owned by the founder’s son, Pedro Nolasco González first Marqués de Torresoto y Briviesca. 

Vermut Lustau: This was one of Manuel Lozano’s last projects; to resuscitate an old company formula. It contains Amontillado and PX both over 10 years old and over 10 botanicals including wormwood, gentian and orange peel. All the botanicals are macerated separately and later blended together. 

Duque de Diano: Genaro Cala: Based on old Oloroso and PX wines from the old family bodega of Francisco Cala, this excellent artisanal vermouth is made to an old XIX century family recipe with over 20 botanicals. The vermouth is then barrel aged in its own solera. Bottles are individually numbered.

Genaro Cala (foto:cosasdecome)

Vermout Amillo Roberto Amillo: Roberto bottles rare old Sherries and brandy under the name of Coleccion Roberto Amillo and his vermouth is made from 18 year old Oloroso and PX with over 30 botanicals including cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, wormwood. 

Canasta Rosso: Williams & Humbert Introduced in 2008 - before the others - it is based on Canasta Cream, which is, of course, a blend of Oloroso and PX with an average age of over six years. Botanicals in this complex vermouth are wormwood, sage, camomile, hops, elder flowers, saffron, clove, star anise seeds, bitter orange peel, cardamom, coriander, fennel, nutmeg, vanilla, angelica, sedge, enula campana, gentian, turmeric, astrantia, lily, cinnamon, croton bark, quinine, pomegranate bark and cassia wood. I don’t know how they get all that into the bottle! 

Vermut Sherry Cask: Fernando de Castilla: Made from PX and Oloroso macerated with 27 botanicals, where possible sourced locally. 

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