A variety of influences has contributed towards renewed interest and excitement in vermouth, with recent flavour trends as well as changing attitudes towards alcohol undoubtedly contributing to this upswing in artisanal offerings, and in turn inspiring both new and old producers.
New producers around the world
One of the most striking changes emerging in the vermouth category in recent years has been the increase in the number of producing countries beyond the traditional Italy, France and, to a lesser extent, Spain. Countries such as Australia, the US and the UK each now have a number of producers, and there are some examples from Germany and Belgium too.
The US was among the first countries outside of traditional vermouth-producing nations to begin creating its own products. Although E&J Gallo had been producing vermouth for some time, the first contemporary US vermouth, Vya, came from California’s Quady Winery in 1999. The brand’s self-styled “original American craft vermouth” line-up first consisted of Vya Sweet and Vya Extra Dry, followed later by the addition of the less bitter Vya Whisper Dry Vermouth.
The UK may have taken longer to join in with its own vermouths, but the number of new products has begun to increase steadily. Blackdown, a distiller in West Sussex, lays claim to creating England’s first white vermouth, Blackdown Silver Birch. Meanwhile, London distillery Sacred has been producing vermouths for some time, first supplying Duke’s Hotel, followed by a general release. The range now consists of English Dry Vermouth, English Amber Vermouth and English Spiced Vermouth, all made with a base of wine from Gloucestershire.
Scotland’s entrant, Discarded, comes from William Grant’s Girvan Distillery, although its selling point relies more on its ingredients than its place of origin. Taking a sustainable approach, the vermouth incorporates cascara, the skin and pulp of the coffee berry that is usually discarded in coffee production.
On the other side of the globe, Australia’s vermouth scene has been growing in recent years, with Regal Rogue – perhaps the best-known brand outside the country – offering a non-traditional range consisting of Lively White, Daring Dry, Bold Red and Wild Rosé. The Bold Red is produced using Barossa Valley shiraz and is, according to Regal Rogue, one of the world’s first dry red vermouths. The Wild Rosé, meanwhile, has a base of Barossa shiraz rosé.
Berlin-based German brand Belsazar launched in 2013 but is set to expand significantly following its March 2018 acquisition by Diageo, which has included it in its Reserve portfolio. Like many other contemporary producers, Belsazar places an emphasis on the base wine used, most notably in the latest addition to its range, Belsazar Riesling Edition Vermouth.
Consumers are increasingly conscious of their alcohol intake, and recent years have seen a growing demand for lower-alcohol serves. Vermouth-based cocktails address this demand, offering a substitute for the punchy flavours of a spirit, but with a far lower ABV. Most, if not all, of the low-alcohol cocktail lists that have emerged recently make plentiful use of vermouth for this reason, as well as drawing on vermouth-based classic cocktails such as the Adonis.
Relatively recent entrant Lo-Fi Aperitifs, for example, places an emphasis on this benefit of the vermouth category, with many of the suggested recipes on its site containing either no base spirit at all, or lower proportions compared to those in classic cocktails. The brand’s website features an article entitled ‘The Lo-Fi Guide To Low-ABV Cocktails‘, recommending the Lo-Fi Spritz as a good starting point.
Although the definition of vermouth allows for quite a degree of freedom for producers, with countless base wines and botanicals to choose from (and with some makers even disregarding the traditional inclusion of wormwood), there is significant development in related drinks categories too. Lo-Fi, for example, includes an amaro alongside its two vermouths, while Imbue produces an aperitif wine, Petal & Thorn, as a complement to its pair of vermouths.
More recently, a beer-vermouth hybrid was launched in Italy by Birra Baladin, entitled Beermouth. Created by two bartenders, its production incorporates techniques such as ultrasound and vacuum distillation to extract botanical flavours.
Whether it’s hybrids, rosolios or amaros, or the growing number of vermouths from an increasing number of producers around the world, the recent resurgence in bitter, botanical-led drinks looks set to only continue.
Various factors are contributing to an increase in interest in the vermouth category, such a rise in interest in bitter flavours, botanical-led drinks, lower-alcohol serves and more.
Another factor invigorating the vermouth category is the rise in new producers, both in established producing countries like France, Italy and Spain, as well as in new territories, with growing scenes in the US, the UK and Australia, for example.
Vermouth bridges the gap between the worlds of spirits and wine, with a number of new entrants produced by wineries. There is increasing emphasis on a vermouth’s base wine – a departure from traditional vermouths.
Established and new producers alike are creating premium vermouth expressions, providing options to trade up within the category.
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