Today we are sipping something a bit different for us – vermouth. We recently tasted a vermouth crafted in California and two made in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Both are infused with botanicals and fortified, but they taste very different. We received both as tasting samples.
I used to think of vermouth as exclusively an ingredient in cocktails, I do enjoy a Manhattan or martini from time to time, but neither cocktail gives me a sense of what vermouth tastes like on its own.
It wasn’t until several years ago, when I first tasted Chinato (an herb-infused wine made in Barolo), that I became curious about vermouth-style wines. Then, thanks to a taste of Lustau Vermut in a restaurant, I decided I really do love these herb-infused libations. Occasionally I will order one in a restaurant after dinner to finish a meal when I’m too full to enjoy dessert.
Beyond knowing vermouth is made using a variety of herbs, I’ve not been familiar with the details of how it is made. I found this explanation on Vermouth 101 very helpful in understanding how and where they have been made.
We tasted all three wines in the group the same way: straight, over ice and over ice with an equal amount of sparkling water.
González Byass La Copa Vermouth, Extra Seco — pale yellow in the glass with aromas of dried marjoram, orange peel and pencil shavings. Flavors include orange peel, clove, mixed dried herbs, bitter notes throughout with the flavors of Fino Sherry in the background. The finish is warming, powerful and a bit sweet. Pleasing flavors of nutmeg linger. Residual sugar is 28 g/L. 17.7% abv. SRP $24.99
Serve this wine chilled, over ice or mix it with an equal amount of soda over ice for a refreshing sip.
From Gonzáles Byass:
La Copa Extra Seco is a white and extra dry Vermouth produced from a selection of very dry Fino Sherries aged for an average of 3 years following the traditional Solera system in American oak casks. The principal botanicals used are wormwood, savory, clove and cinnamon. Red fruits have also been added to achieve a long and persistent balsamic aftertaste. This vermouth has slightly more alcohol than the sweet vermouths which empowers the expressing and impression.
González Byass La Copa Vermouth, Rojo — dark amber in the glass with generous aromas and flavors of orange peel, dried oregano, earth and caramel. The wine is round in the mouth and sweet with a pleasing sweet-bitter balance. The finish is warming and smooth. Residual sugar 121 g/L. 15.5% abv. SRP $24.99
This wine is rich, viscous, sweet and generously flavored. It’s dessert in a glass. As with the Extra Seco, sip it on its own, chilled, or pour it over ice or mixed with an equal amount of soda over ice.
From Gonzáles Byass:
La Copa brand was one of the first to be registered by González Byass dating back to 1884. The production follows the original recipe from 1906 and the packaging is a replica of the original label. La Copa is produced from fine Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez soleras which are more than 8 years old. A meticulous selection of botanicals is carried out, with the aim of achieving the perfect bitter-sweet, aromatic balance. The principal botanicals used are wormwood, savory, clove, orange peel, nutmeg and cinnamon. The proportion of botanicals is a closely guarded secret, kept under lock and key in the winery.
T.W. Hollister & Co. Oso de Oso Red Vermouth — amber in the glass with aromas of dusty earth, bitter root and dried herbs. Complex flavors of mustard seed, chamomile, five spice, cumin, dill and dusty earth are supported by bitter and slightly sweet flavors. The wine is a bit round with a long warm finish. It is easy to sip. 18% abv. SRP $37 (750ml)
This vermouth tastes more herbal than the previous two and is very complex. It is a bit sweet, but the balance of bitterness to sweet is delicious with bitter winning out. Sip this vermouth on its own, chilled, serve it over ice or mixed with soda over ice to make the drink last longer. Of the three this is the one I would sip on its own.
The T.W. Hollister & Co. Oso de Oso Red Vermouth begins as a white wine that is macerated with 19 local botanicals, blood orange, chamomile and hummingbird sage. Some of the native botanicals are foraged from the family’s historic ranch. European caramel is added for texture and color.
T.W. Hollister & Co.’s Red Vermouth is perfect for a Manhattan or one of the recipes below:
I love when the pitch for a wine comes from a member of the family who makes it. And when that family has a long history in California, as is the case with T.W. Hollister & Co., that’s even better.
Clinton Hollister is the fifth-generation of his family to live in Santa Barbara. He and his wife Ashley recently launched T.W. Hollister & Co., with the release of their Red and Dry Vermouth.
The Hollister family’s history in California reaches back to 1852 when Colonel W.W. Hollister came to Santa Barbara from Ohio. He became instrumental is developing and financing Stearns Wharf, the Arlington Hotel and the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
I hope after reading about these three very different vermouths you will be curious to sip them either before or after dinner.