9diDante: Exciting Italian Vermouth

While attending a recent webinar with Alex Ouzel, founder of 9diDante Vermouths (pronounced noh-vay-dee-dahn-tay) I had a chance to get a refresher on the basics of vermouth. Though I understood Spain to be the place of origin for vermouth, it turns out that northern Italy is where it was first made, and where Alex has decided to base his new venture.

According to European law, 75% of vermouth must be wine, but no one seems to pay much attention to the wine that goes into it. This is the first of many 9diDante's differentiators.

Vermouth was first made in Piedmont in the late 1700's, and it was almost inevitable. The region is surrounded by everything needed to make vermouth: wine, herbs (from the foothills of the Alps,) spices (from the far east by way of nearby Genoa,) and strong demand from the Court of Savoy (known at the time for being party animals) in Turin. And around this same time, the tradition of aperitivo began. A century later, the American cocktail culture of the late 1800's fueled international demand and further solidified vermouth's place in any well-equipped bar.

Alex strives to put wine more at center stage of his vermouths, using 100% Piedmont DOC wine-bases and increasing the wine component from the legal minimum of 75% to 84%. He also reaches for harmony between the various botanicals, placing ABV at 17.5% to help showcase fruit and herbs.

Now, onto the samples:

Inferno Rosso Vermouth di Torino Superiore IGP ($33)
Based on a 50/50 blend of dolcetto and cortese, this red (sweeter) vermouth pours into the glass with beautiful transluscence and ruby color. The aromatics are nothing short of wild - not intense, but uber-complex with both sides - wine and herbs - representing with equity. Once in the mouth, the botanical package take center stage. Orange peel, fennel, caraway, cumin....the ride goes on and on, with savory components balanced with bitters and floral aspects. Poured over ice with seltzer, it makes a sophisticated and refreshing aperitivo.  

Purgatorio Extra Dry Vermouth di Torino Superiore IGP ($35)
Made of 100% arneis, this dry white vermouth looks like a sauvignon blanc in the glass, and, unlike it's Inferno sibling, is more reserved in its aromatics, which are clean and neatly defined. Arneis, the base grape, is faithfully featured, with a botanical regimen that complements the wine, rather overrides it. Citrus and bright herbal character kick off the full-spectrum journey that takes you through a vegetable garden, a lemon grove, and a field of mint. Again, here we've got bitters that drive the finish, though fresher, lighter, and even more sophisticated and complex than its red sibling. Impressive.