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). 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 the influence of 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(1).
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(3)), 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
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
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. Patrick 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.
Check out Cana’s Feast Website to purchase Chinato d’Erbetti ($45)
My name is Patrick Taylor, I am a winemaker. I work with mostly red varietals and more recently, I started making vermouth. Vermouth at its base is wine, botanicals, you know, herbs, spices. It’s fortified with grape neutral spirits, you can think of it as un-aged brandy. .. And then sweetened with a little bit of sugar. So Chinato, the thing that makes Chinato distinctly different from most vermouths is that Nebbiolo is the base wine. The original Chinatos came from the Piedmonte, specifically the Sara lin badala. There was a pharmacist, back then they called them druggist or chemists. He was looking to make a beverage that he could take at the end of a meal, a digestif, that would help him digest this overly rich diet that he probably had. He started mixing his medicinals and herbal remedies with the local beverage. Nebbiolo, it fills this gray space, this liminality between what is a cocktail and what is wine. How many times has it been a punch line of a joke, that someone that has no class is putting ice cubes in their wine. I found the cocktail community much easier, because they have fewer preconceived notions of what something is suppose to be than the wine community does. There was an expat, an American expat in Paris, who had this journal, this literary journal that he wrote called the Boulevardier yang. And so he use to hang out at this club. The bartender there made him this drink using whisky. So, it’s whisky, sweet vermouth, and campari. Three of my absolute favorite things.