Chinato, A Sweet Vermouth Makes A Comeback in Oregon

Chinato To Mix or Not To Mix

There is a gap between the wine and cocktail community. You’re either a whisky person or a wine person. There is a drink, however, that bridges the chasm between the spirit and wine community: vermouth.

Vermouth is commonly used as a base in blending cocktails such as a manhattan, but it’s also made of wine. In this video we talk to Patrick Taylor, the winemaker at Cana’s Feast Winery, who is making a Nebbiolo-based vermouth called Chinato. A sweet vermouth that stands perfectly on its own but also makes a damn good cocktail.

Chinato is Bitter-Sweet, It’s an Italian Thing

From espresso to vermouth, Italy has a varied love of all things bitter. Vermouth and “aromatized” wines find their origins in Northern Italy and Germany as early as the 16th century (1).

Madeline Puckette at the Cana's Feast Tasting re:Public Seattle
Glad I’m not doing the dishes. At re:public in Seattle,WA

The “druggists” or Farmaceutico would concoct extractions from herbs and roots which would then be blended with the local wine as a way to make cures more palatable (also preserved with added brandy). As middle Eastern spices, such as cinnamon and clove, became more available, they found their way into many vermouth recipes. The aristocracy in Germany, France, and Italy took a liking to vermouth and its popularity skyrocketed.

In Piedmont (The Serralunga d’Alba) starting in 1870, a druggist, Giuseppe Cappellano, developed a vermouth with the local wine, nebbiolo. Calling it Chinato (Paying homage to the use of quinine from China), the vino aromatino was endorsed by the House of Savoy. With a newly found market for the vermouth, many other producers followed and created their own versions of Chinato Barolo.

Producers of Chinato Barolo in Italy
G. Cappellano Chinato
G. Conterno Chinato
Bartolo Mascarello Chinato
Roagna Chinato
G. Borgogno Chinato
Mauro Vergano Chinato
Fratelli Barale’s Barolo Chinato
Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo Chinato
Gancia’s Antica Ricetta Barolo Chinato
Marcarini’s Barolo Chinato

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Chinato d’Erbetti From Oregon

Inspired by his first tasting of Chinato Barolo, Patrick Taylor was enthusiastic about using the nebbiolo he makes at Cana’s Feast to develop his own chinato. Taylor started with a long list of over 3 dozen herbs, spices, roots, and barks and slowly reduced the list to essential ingredients. Armed with advice from Cana’s Feast chef, Lisa Lanxon, about how spices and herbs interact with each other, Taylor developed their first chinato.

With only 100 cases to start, the Cana’s Feast chinato was an immediate hit! Taylor found that bartenders adapted classic cocktails asking for sweet vermouth with and replaced it with chinato. The drinks add extra dimension with the tannin from the nebbiolo and the rich herbal notes of clove, cinnamon and coriander. Patrick Taylor believes that vermouths like chinato bridge the gap between the cocktail world and the world of wine.

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly