Vermouth? You bet!
These aren’t your grandmother’s afternoon aperitifs.
Master herbal mixologist Mauro Vergano crafts some tasty concoctions from his humble brew-shop in Asti, producing just 8,000 bottles of delicious aromatized wines. Mauro recently shared a tasting of his latest Vermouth and Chinato with me in Asti, and gave me a peek into his herbaceous magic.
These are made with fresh, natural herbs and spices like thyme, oregano, absinthe, quinine, orange peel, vanilla and more — extracted and blended according to his secret recipe with quality local wines, like Moscato, Cortese, Barbaresco and Grignolino.
Mauro is a retired chemist (makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?) who started making these vini aromatizzatii as a hobby back in the 70s. His friends & family loved his Chinato, and word quickly spread about his genuine, small-batch creations. In 2003, Mauro traded in his flasks & beakers for a new life in making Vermouth and Chinato, a personal joy that we can now share in.
Mauro's lineup of Vermouth and Chinati are wonderfully unique from each other. From the left, the Chinato is what you'd associated with flavors like Campari, but made from a base of Barbaresco (Nebbiolo). The Americano is a pinkish Vermouth with hints of orange peel, lemon on a base of Gringolino. BVB is Mauro's white Vermouth on a base of Moscato & Cortese with absinthe, thyme, greek oregano, marjourum, savory & quinine — lightly sweet and delicious. Finally, Luli, which means "that one" in local Piemontese dialect, is aptly named — definitely my favorite, with orange and cinnamon, vanilla and quinine. I'd pair the latter with bleu cheese, candied fruits, and even Torrone.
This is "sea thyme" — or thyme that grows by the sea. Mauro also uses "mountain thyme" which…grows in the mountains. They're remarkably different. The herbs & spices he uses are steeped in alcohol just long enough to extract their aromas and flavors. How long the herbs are steeped is part of his secret recipe, which he guards like a Trappist monk.
Another key ingredient is oregano, but not just any oregano. Mauro prefers Greek oregano that is grown on the island of Crete.
Savory anyone? This is winter savory that's grown big, then cut up into small pieces. We Americans don't see this very often, and certainly not like this, but it's a common herb used in the making of Vermouth.
Ever wonder what Quinine looks like? Well this isn't it. Okay, it's in this bark of the Remijia and Cinchona tree in Peru, and here's what the bark looks like. Mauro steeps it in alcohol to leach out the quinine.
Mauro has a very modest Vermouth-making shop, right in the heart of Asti. He needs few supplies, the real secret is in the herbal extraction and mixing, a secret recipe he's refined over 15 years of aromatized wine making.
Mauro is a proud herbal mixologist, and rightly so. His Vermouth and Chinato small-batch creations are some of the finest in Italy, and the best I’ve tasted. You can taste them too. Just click on a bottle for tasting notes & how to order.
Michael Horne, CS
Los Gatos, CA USA