Monday, July 19, 2010

PONTI VERMOUTH ROSSO DI TORINO


Ponti Vermouth

Most folks know vermouth more as something to put in a mixed drink than something to sit and sip.  I tried sipping a red vermouth, and enjoyed it very much.

Vermouth is a fortified wine, usually infused with brandy, and usually running about the same sort of alcohol number as Port.  The Ponti I sipped is 16% abv.  Vermouth can be dry – white vermouth is dry, and it's sometimes called French vermouth – or sweet.  Red, or rosso, is sometimes called Italian vermouth.

Spices and herbs are the big ingredients that give vermouth its unusual and lively character.  Wormwood – the stuff of absinthe – is one of the leading herbs in vermouth.

I sipped it straight up, on the rocks and chilled.  The iced version got diluted quickly and straight up neat it seemed a little brash.  Chilled is definitely my choice for vermouth.  The Italian rosso vermouth I tried is a sweet vermouth about which I can find almost nothing online.  That's usually not a good sign, but in this case the proof is in the tasting.  It comes from Turin, in the Piedmont region.

The color of the Ponti vermouth is a dark, dull red, almost nut brown.  The tinge around the edges is a whiskey brown color.  The nose is a delight: burnt caramel raisins is an aroma I'd like to smell everyday.  On the palate, a very familiar taste appears, one I had a bit of trouble identifying.  It's reminiscent of Blackjack gum, something I may not have had since childhood.  Clove and cinnamon mingle with charred candy flavors and coffee.  The finish reminds me of a marshmallow burnt over a campfire.  There is a lot of sweetness here, but the spice profile puts enough of a bitter spin on it that it does not seem overly sugary.

In Europe – particularly Spain – vermouth is customarily sipped straight up, especially before dinner.  I'm told that many bars have it on tap.  I like it this way, although the intensity of the flavors does become a little burdensome if I drink much more than half my usual wine serving.