Friday, January 8, 2016

Bitters, Bottle For One

When people gift wine to someone they know is a bit eccentric in their tastes, someone who likes to try new things, it can go one of two ways. You might like it a lot.  Conversely, you might not. The wine I am writing about today is in the latter category.

So that I don’t give the wrong impression, I like having friends who will take a chance when giving me wine. It offers me the opportunity to try many things I might not have otherwise sampled. Even when I don’t like the wine, it’s still a learning experience.

Cocchi’s Americano Bianco Aperitif is a Moscato-based wine is abetted by a blend of herbs, fruit and spices developed in 1891. It is said to be a staple in Asti. The Moscato di Asti wine is fortified, then flavored with cinchona bark, along with the other ingredients. Cinchona bark is the original source of quinine, and it’s what gives Cocchi a bitter bite and places the wine in the category of chinati. The wine is laid down for a year before its release.

Since its widespread availability came just a few years ago, it has become a favorite ingredient in cocktails made by craft bartenders, owing to the quinine content. The makers of Americano Bianco indicate that bartenders like to use it instead of Lillet, which they say lost its quinine bite after a 1986 reworking of the recipe. The alcohol hits 16.5% abv.

The Giulio Cocchi website - it’s COKE-ey, by the way - offers this advice: "In Piemonte it is served chilled on ice, with a splash of soda and a peel of orange."  The site also notes that Americano is from "amaricante" an Italian term for "bittered." It is the name of the category of aperitif wines, much like "vermouth." Gentian, the main botanical ingredient, gives it both floral and earthy notes - in abundance, I might add.

It has the color of apple juice and a nose that really shows off the botanicals used in making it. It carries a nearly overpowering aroma that is half floral, half medicinal.  There is a strong earthiness to it as well. The palate won't go unnoticed either, that's for sure. It is a bit shrill on its own. I found some tonic water in the fridge and mixed it - or cut it - and it did tone it down some, although it actually doubled down on the quinine. I feel good that I have probably staved off a malaria outbreak in the household.

I generally like mixer alcohols - like vermouth - on their own, but Americano Bianco won't be on my shopping list unless I suddenly become a craft bartender. And that's not likely.


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