Vermouth may well be America’s most unusual and intriguing fortified wine. Simply put, Vermouth is fortified wine infused with herbs and spices.
Vermouth is classified by federal regulation as an aperitif wine “having an alcoholic content of not less than 15 percent by volume, compounded from grape wine containing added brandy or alcohol, flavored with herbs and other natural aromatic flavoring materials”. Aperitif derives from the Latin aperire, which is the verb “to open,” in the sense of opening up the appetite.
American Vermouth Made?
The base wine for American Vermouth is a neutral flavored often made from a variety of grapes. Production tracks the standard procedures for white-port-style wines fortified with high proof neutral wine spirits. Upwards of 50 herbs and spices are used in the production Vermouth. Examples of commonly infused ingredients are ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, violet, juniper, allspice, and lavender. The specific types and quantities of infused materials are unique to each producer and usually proprietary. However, under federal regulations, Vermouth is deemed a formula wine and requires TTB approval of each explicit Vermouth formula prior to production.
The extracts for Vermouth often entail soaking the herbs and spices in high alcohol spirits then adding the extract directly into the wine following fortification. Extraction commonly last not more than two weeks to avoid the assimilation of unwanted flavors. A darker color can be achieved by caramel after the flavor infusion. The wine is then aged for four to six months during which time the flavorants are fully blended. Vermouth is typically fined, cold stabilized, and sterile-filtered.