Often thought of as an alcoholic spirit due to its long association with classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Negroni, and Martini, vermouth is, in reality, a fortified wine that has been strengthened with the addition of a neutral spirit distilled from grapes. Its name derives from the French pronunciation of wormwood in German, which is ‘Wermut’. It was first used as a medicinal remedy. The tradition of adding botanicals to fortified wines and using them to help cure people had a long history dating back to at least 1000 BC in China. The first Italian vermouth, which used wormwood, was created by a merchant named Ruscelli in the 16th century. Eventually, the northern Italian region of Piedmont flourished as the principal maker of the drink as a result of its local vineyards known for producing dry sweet white wines and the aromatic herbs abundant in these areas of the Alps. When the Duchy of Savoy moved from Chambéry, France to Torino, Italy during the 1500s, the court was presented with the local vermouth, and it became one of its most appreciated drinks – an appreciation that soon spread to other courts in Europe.
Sophisticated and iconic, vermouth has reached fame all over the world. Yet, as well-known as it is with its connotations of aristocracy and refinement, it also has a certain familiarity. It’s a classic, which is in part the reason why the Italian winery Ferro13 decided to debut its latest oenological creation with the name of ‘OLD’. Vermouth may have an aristocratic history but it is at the same time as familiar as an old friend. The play on words is also quite typical in Veneto, where the winery’s headquarters is located. Here, it’s common to greet a longtime friend, regardless of age, as “vecio” – meaning old man. Thus, this somewhat atypical winery decided to give its vermouth the English name OLD.
Produced in limited edition, Ferro13 launched 1,713 bottles of the new product, which from vintage to vintage, will always be released in limited numbers to safeguard its preciousness and to exalt the value of every single bottle.
“This precise number,” explains Gabriele Stringa, co-founder of Ferro13, “was not chosen at random but is the result of the union of the two numbers, 17 and 13, which are notoriously not connected to good omens. In our case, we chose them voluntarily to exorcise any bad luck. Moreover, 17 is also the alcohol by volume required for this wine to be defined as Vermouth di Torino.”
Vermouth di Torino is part of a long viticultural tradition that foresees the use of only Italian wines (both white and red). Ferro13 uses two of its top range wines to produce OLD, Hashtag, a varietal Sauvignon Blanc widely appreciated for its acidity and minerality, and Gentleman, a Pinot Nero dell’Oltrepò Pavese DOC. The design of the bottle, simultaneously essential and modern, includes a refined label that recalls the two wines used for its production.
Grapes, which grow between Veneto, Friuli, and Lombardy, are harvested and vinified in the Burgundy style and remain in contact with yeasts for a long time before being processed and bottled. Its primary herbal element is Artemisia Absinthium L., known as wormwood, a plant that grows abundantly in the area of Piedmont where Ferro 13 distills its vermouth.
Amber in color, with notes of red fruits, the scent of citrus, and a subtle spicy taste, OLD is an elegant and sophisticated vermouth. It is rich and delicious to drink straight or perfect to add to great classic cocktails. The Veronese winery also recommends pairing it with desserts such as chocolate ganache.
By Liana Bicchieri