What Is Vermouth Wine | Flavor and Characteristics

Jan 11 , 2023

Traynor Vineyards

What Is Vermouth Wine | Flavor and Characteristics

What is vermouth wine? Unless you come from a long line of wine connoisseurs, you may not be particularly familiar with vermouth. Although you'll find this sophisticated beverage in many of your favourite cocktails, few people are familiar with its complex history and intriguing flavour profile. After learning more about this unique, punchy spirit, you're sure to dream of it for elegant brunches, romantic evenings, and everything in between.

The Rich History of Vermouth

Although the origins of this mysterious fortified wine predate its global popularity, we should first look at its intriguing name. Vermouth rolls off the tongue in two rich syllables, a word that comes from the way the French pronounced the German word, 'wormwood,' a medicinal ingredient used by various cultures for centuries. However, long before the rest of Europe got their hands on this intoxicating drink and fell in love with it, it was being enjoyed by the ancient Greeks.

Believe it or not, Hippocrates is thought to have created our favourite fortified wine. The famous Greek physician macerated regular wine with rich spices, creating "Hippocratical." Over the coming years, winemakers added more ingredients to make the lux flavour Vermouth is so well-known for today–almonds, cinnamon, honey, and other aromatic herbs. The art of creating this mouth-watering wine has been kept alive for centuries by alchemists, doctors, and monks alike.

Vermouth as We Know It Is Finally Born

In 1786, the charming spirit as we know it today was finally created in the enchanting city of Milan, Italy, by Antonio Benedetto Carpano. However, brothers Luigi and Giuseppe Cora helped bring the delicious fortified wine to the forefront of industrial success. Around this time, many popular Italian brands began to emerge, further aiding in the successful spread of this delectable drink.

Aside from Italy, nearby countries France and Spain also had their take on the fortified wine, with their own brands and recipes growing in popularity.

All About Vermouth

What is vermouth wine, and what does it taste like? While there are many variations of the luxurious spirit depending on its origins, there are a few essential characteristics and processes vermouth goes through to earn its identification as our favourite wine.

How It's Made

Like any other alcoholic drink, the finest wine is aged to perfection and made from freshly-picked grapes. To qualify as vermouth, the mixture must be 75 percent wine. The remaining 25 percent is an intentional blend of botanicals, sugar, and alcohol, or mistelle. Mistelle is a combination of alcohol and fresh grape juice. The additive of extra alcohol gives vermouth a higher ABV than most other wines, making it critical for the consumer to drink responsibly. The ABV of vermouth usually sits between 16 and 22 percent.

Vermouth is a labour of love. Winemakers use white or red wine aged in either stainless steel or oak barrels to enhance and fortify the flavours. Each recipe has its own unique process and ingredients, varying according to the preferences and overall goal of the winemaker. 

Ingredients

Vermouth is an aromatized wine fortified with various botanicals, spices, herbs, sugar, juices, and other spirits to create its unique and complex flavour profile. All versions of vermouth include an indulgent array of flavours to suit any occasion. While the wine almost always contains a bitter plant or root, also called an artemisia, recipes vary greatly depending on the region and recipe. Commonly used botanicals include:

  • Spices: mace, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, cardamom, tonka bean, clove, star anise, cinnamon bark
  • Bitters: sweet flag, licorice root, wormwood, angelica root, orris root, cascarilla, cinchona bark
  • Herbs: sage, kieffer lime leaves, juniper, oregano, honeysuckle, st. john's wort, dittany of Crete, marjoram, hyssop, ginger, coriander, gallic rose
  • Citrus: pomelo peel, orange peel, lemon peel, lime peel, bergamot orange peel

Styles

Although the ingredients used in vermouth vary, the wine can be defined in three distinct styles: sweet, dry, and blanc.

Sweet Vermouth, also called red or rosso, is a rich and spicy concoction, described as both herbaceous and delightfully sweet. This style favours bitter, darker spirits such as bourbon, scotch, gin, rye whiskey, and sparkling wine. Use sweet Vermouth to create a classic Manhattan cocktail for your next dinner party.

Dry Vermouth is known for its lean, tart flavour profile, which is typically paired with floral botanicals. Enjoy dry Vermouth with vodka, gin, aperol, campari, amaro, cynar, or chartreuse. You'll find this style best for a dry martini.

Lastly, we have blanc, or blanco, vermouth. Blanc vermouth is a happy medium between the two other styles, featuring a rich, tart, and citrusy taste while boasting a pleasant flavour. While you may pair it with bourbon, rye whiskey, gin, or vodka, pairing blanc vermouth with soda is the classic many wine connoisseurs enjoy.

If you've had vermouth in the past and didn't find it to suit your tastes, don't give up. Because there are so many different recipes and additives, you may not have yet discovered your sweet spot. Anyone who loves wine should be able to find a type of vermouth that fits their tastes and preferences.

Pairings

While there are many ways to enjoy vermouth on its own, its flavour profile complexity makes it the perfect choice for food lovers. Spanish tradition uses vermouth as a tried and tested appetizer. At the same time, other cultures have discovered an array of intriguing pairings to pull out the rich and diverse botanicals present in this fortified wine.

When it comes to vermouth, keep your food endeavours salty and savoury to truly enjoy the intricacy of each note. Consider simple snacks such as flatbreads, crackers, breadsticks, and nuts to emphasize the richness of sweet vermouth. Cheeses also make for a lovely combo–whether you enjoy mild and soft or pungent and strong with your vermouth, the intense flavours will undoubtedly melt together in your mouth, creating a balanced, intriguing harmony.

Meat and seafood also make interesting combinations when paired with your favourite bottle of organic wine. Cured ham or sausage interacts well with floral botanicals, giving new life to a traditional spirit. Seafood connoisseurs may also appreciate a bold variety of mussels, clams, squid, cockles, crab, prawns, and sardines. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to vermouth.

Aside from the ingredients of a classic charcuterie board, vermouth may also pair well with various dishes across cultures. Vermouth's sweetness will stand out when paired with Chinese dishes featuring rice, chicken, or seafood. You can also consider pairing a spicier vermouth with a hearty meal such as a steak sandwich or hamburger. For those who enjoy woody or bitter vermouths, try a richer flavour like coffee or dark chocolate. For dessert lovers, consider your favourite tiramisu.

Cocktails

Unless you're well-versed in the world of cocktail making, you may not realize that Vermouth is the star of the show in many of your favourite classic cocktails:

  • The Negroni–This lux cocktail is a customer-requested twist on an Americano. Mix your favourite sweet vermouth, campari, and gin to recreate this instant classic. Don't forget to add ice and an orange peel for garnish to bring out sweet, citrusy notes.
  • The Martini–The iconic Martini is simple and sophisticated, a mixture of only the finest gin and dry vermouth. Serve it chilled, or don't serve it at all. The Martini is traditionally garnished with a twist or an olive.
  • The Manhattan–You'll also want to serve this chilled with a twist or maraschino cherry for a saccharine garnish. Mix vermouth, rye whiskey, and aromatic bitters to create this herbal blend with an underlying sweetness.
  • The Adonis–This cocktail is named after the 1884 broadway show of the same name, created in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to honour the musical. To make the Adonis, mix sherry, vermouth, and orange bitters. Always serve it chilled with an orange peel twisted and then dropped into the glass to give it a citrusy punch.
  • The Bronx Cocktail–A cocktail named after a zoo? You heard that right. The Bronx Cocktail was also created at the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel with gin, orange juice, rosso vermouth, and dry vermouth. This drink should be shaken and served chilled. An orange peel for garnish is optional.

However you choose to enjoy your vermouth, it is a versatile drink with many different flavour profiles and various ways to enjoy it. Instead of going to your local liquor store to find a bottle of cheap, low-quality wine, consider purchasing your vermouth from an ethical, organic farmer for a truly transformative experience.

Organic Vermouth

As a wine lover, you may be familiar with the benefits of the world's favourite drink, such as increased sociability and potential health benefits, when used responsibly. However, you may not be aware of the importance of ethical wine consumption. Before purchasing your next bottle of vermouth, consider a few things.

The commercialization of alcoholic beverages is riddled with concerns about the impact of unethical labour and unsustainable production practices. Many vineyards are beginning to change the landscape of wine production by committing to ethical growth and manufacturing practices. Ethical organic wine focuses on fair trade labour, affordability, quality ingredients, and sustainable practices. To ensure you purchase organic and ethically-sourced vermouth, you'll want to find a winery authentically committed to these practices, bringing you delicious wines you can feel good about consuming.

Traynor Family Vineyard

Traynor Family Vineyard sits in the heart of Prince Edward County, once a frozen cornfield catching the chilly breeze off of Lake Ontario. Mike Traynor purchased the property in 2008 with a vision to turn the land into a beautiful space where people could enjoy award-winning and ethically-sourced wines. His passion and love for farming and people have helped him create a stunning winery that is both a joy to visit and work at for his treasured employees. He has implemented various permaculture practices to make vegan, organic products, including his award-winning vermouth.

Favourites From Traynor Family Vineyard

With freshly farmed and foraged botanicals, organic vermouth from Traynor Family Vineyard is like nothing you've ever tasted. From red to white, floral to spicy, a bottle of our complex vermouth can be enjoyed as a stimulating aperitif before dinner or in a glamorous cocktail on a summer evening. You'll be in love when a single drop hits your palette–a beautifully flavorful experience sending you into a warm, full-bodied buzz.

Madonna Vermouth

Our Madonna Vermouth is carefully crafted with love and memories of tender days in a carefully crafted herb garden. Madonna Vermouth is cautiously infused with local aromatics to create a sweet blend of lilac, juniper, sumac, hyssop, chamomile, and other seasonings to create a perfectly balanced floral paradise. This organic wine pairs beautifully with a vibrant cheese plate and may be unsuspectedly enjoyed in chai tea or a Moscow mule.

Haberdasher Vermouth

The Haberdasher Vermouth is a labour of sweet passion, containing over twenty herbs and flowers grown on-site. In this slightly sweet variation, you'll find wormwood, mint, hyssop, and rose as the stars of the show. Despite being anything but classic, you'll find this stimulating blend refreshing and invigorating in your favourite cocktails, such as Negroni or Manhattan.

Other Wines You'll Want to Try

Beyond our selection of high-quality organic vermouth, we are passionate about providing delicious wines for all occasions. Browse a selection of aromatic bottles, including red wine, white wine, rose, piquette, and pet-nat. We aim for diverse flavour profiles–sweet, tangy, bitter, citrusy, dark, and woodsy.

Indulge in the Luxurious Sentimentality of Vermouth Wine

What is vermouth wine? You'll find vermouth to be a stunning, complex, and underrated wine, whether you're new to the world of fine, organic wine or have tried everything under the sun. The Traynor Family Vineyard and winery is proud to bring you unexpected, luxurious flavours with a sense of familiar sentimentality that will keep you coming back for one more sip every time.