Wine and Cheese

Brandy. Photo from Pixabay

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Armagnac is a brandy distilled from wine and is often confused with its close cousin, Cognac. However, Armagnac’s taste is fuller and richer and is described as less “burning” and more mellow. Armagnac comes from the Gascony region in southwest France, 150 miles southeast of Bordeaux and 100 miles south of Cognac.

Armagnac has been distilled in Gascony since 1411, making it the world’s oldest brandy. In the mid-1600s the Dutch first exported it, and the aging of brandy in wooden barrels seems to have been practiced since 1730. In 1936 the Armagnac region was divided into three appellations: Haut-Armagnac, Bas-Armagnac, and Armagnac-Ténarèze. The best quality Armagnac comes from the Bas-Armagnac appellation, which produces over 55 percent of the region’s brandy.

Armagnac is produced principally from Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Baco Blanc grapes. The wine is distilled to produce a colorless brandy with a powerful bouquet and flavor described as “firewater.” Approximately 95 percent of the brandy undergoes only one distillation.

Armagnac is aged in black, tannic-rich, 400-liter oak barrels from the Monlezun forest of France in the Bas-Armagnac. However, wood from Limousin, Allier, and Tronçais forests are being used because Monlezun forests have dwindled.

After aging, the brandies of different appellations and ages are blended. Following blending, the strength of the Armagnac is reduced to 40 or 43 percent alcohol by distilled water. This is followed by adding caramel for color “adjustment” if needed. Armagnac is then kept in large barrels for additional months to allow for the curing or “marrying” of the blend.

Legislation states that a vintage date on the label of a bottle of Armagnac indicates year of harvest, not year of distillation.

Label designations

• VS or three-star. Minimum three years old

• VSOP or Napoléon. Minimum four years old

• XO or Hors d’Age. Minimum 10 years old

• XO Premium. Minimum 20 years old

• Vintage. Minimum 10 years old


Depending on the type and age, Armagnac can have aromas and flavors of flowers, caramel, toffee, cinnamon, coconut, hazelnuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit (apricot, orange, peach, plum, prune, raspberry), maple syrup, roses, spices, violets, and vanilla.

Serving Armagnac

Armagnac has traditionally been regarded as an after-dinner drink, but in some countries, it is served before or with a meal. Purists prefer to enjoy the older, finer Armagnac unmixed. Armagnac should be served in short tulip-shaped glasses tall enough to allow a reasonable aroma to build, yet small enough to be cradled in one’s hand.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Photo from Pixabay

‘Beaujolais wines are deliciously fresh to the palate. They charm you with their delicacy, tenderness, and lightness.’

Curnonsky {Maurice Edmond Sailland} French writer, 1872-1956

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Beaujolais Nouveau (known as Beaujolais Primeur in France) is the “new” Beaujolais wine that has been fermented to capture the ultimate in lightness and freshness besides its intense grapy aromas and flavors.

Beaujolais is a grape-growing district below the southern part of Burgundy, between Lyon and Mâcon. It is about 35 miles long and between seven and nine miles wide. Beaujolais is both the name of the place and the wine made there and was named after the village of Beaujeu. Beaujolais is made from grapes coming from the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages within the district.

Beaujolais is made from a red grape called Gamay, which produces light, fresh and fruity wines wherever it grows in the world. The wine owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration (called whole berry fermentation). This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the wine, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape.

Beginning in 1951, the official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau was November 15. However, in 1985 the release date was changed to the third Thursday in November regardless of the specific date.

This youthful wine has limited aging potential; therefore, it is enjoyed within a short time after fermentation. Nouveau is at its best when it first appears on the market. After one year it is tired and with few exceptions should be forgotten.

Beaujolais are fresh, fruity, uncomplicated, light-bodied wines. They are excellent wines for warm weather when fuller-bodied red wines may overpower. For best results serve Beaujolais Nouveau chilled at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beaujolais Nouveau should have the fresh, full, fruity bouquet and flavor of blackberries, candy-apple, cherries, plums, raspberries, red lollipops, strawberries, spices, violets, and an overwhelming freshness. On the palate, Beaujolais should be young, lively, and joyous.

Some cheeses to enjoy with this particular wine are Beaufort, Bel Paese, Camembert, Charolais, Cheshire, Feta, Fontina, Raclette, Tomme de Savoie, and Triple-Crèmes. Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with salads, fried chicken, light chicken and turkey dishes, pork, artichokes, ratatouille, eggs, ham, salmon, swordfish, tuna, hamburgers (cheeseburgers), pizza, hot dogs, chestnuts, salami, picnic foods, and chocolate.

Brands of Beaujolais Nouveau worth searching for include Georges Duboeuf, Louis Jadot, Jean-Paul Thevenet, Louis Tete, Mommessin, Domaine Dupeuble, and Jean Foillard.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Cabernet Franc is a medium acid red grape variety grown in Bordeaux, France since at least 1784. It is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make the dry wines of the Médoc, Graves, Pomerol, and Saint-Émilion. Cabernet Franc is also grown in other parts of France, especially the Loire Valley where it is blended to make the AOC wines of Bourgueil, Champigny, Chinon, Rosé d’Anjou, and Saumur.

It is grown in many other countries and used for blending or to produce a varietally-labeled wine. The quality of its wine excels in parts of Ontario, Canada, New York State, Virginia, and Washington State.

Although not confirmed it is believed that Cabernet Franc originated in the Western Pyrénées in Southwest France and parts of Northern Spain. It has been genetically linked to both Hondarribi Beltza and Morenoa grapes from the Basque Country, but parentage is not yet certain.

In 1997, DNA analysis revealed that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Cabernet Franc has over 30 synonyms, the most known are Bouchet and Breton, which are used in France.

Wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes are lighter, softer, and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon. Depending on where it is grown, some characteristic smells and tastes of Cabernet Franc wine include bell pepper, berries (blueberry, cranberry, mulberry, strawberry) black currants, black pepper, cherry, green olive, jam, and plum. Hints of basil, cinnamon, eucalyptus, herbs, licorice, mushroom, rosemary, tobacco, and spices are also present.

The wine pairs with beef including pepper steak, roast beef, and most hearty stews. Try pasta in a marinara sauce; barbecued pork loin with mushrooms; grilled tuna or other firm-fleshed fish. Also, soy and ginger-flavored Asian cuisine pairs nicely with it, especially duck or just a bowl of wild mushroom risotto.

If you like cheese, Cabernet Franc matches well with Appenzeller, Blue Cheeses, Brie, Butterkäse, Cabécou, Cantal, Chaource, Cheddar, Colby, Gruyère, Jarlsberg, Leyden, Maroilles, Sainte-Maure, and Saint-Nectaire.

Although most people who like Cabernet Franc drink the light to medium to full-bodied wines, there are other styles made. For example, white, dry rosé, and sparkling Cabernet Franc wines are made globally. Two excellent sweet dessert wines are Floc de Gascogne from the Armagnac region and Pineau des Charentes from the Cognac region of France. However, the grand prize is a bottle of Cabernet Franc Icewine, a specialty of Canada and New York State. It usually has a brilliant orange-ruby color and is ultra-sweet.

What are you drinking tonight?

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Serving wine at home, on a picnic or during a festive occasion is fun and with just a few simple tips listed below, you will be on your way to an enjoyable time.

Opening Table and Sparkling Wines

Table wines: Cut the capsule near the bottle’s neck, then remove it using the edge of the knife blade. Insert the point of the corkscrew’s worm into the cork and with a gentle downward pressure, screw the worm clockwise until only one notch is showing. Then, attach the corkscrew’s lever to the lip on top of the bottle and while holding it firmly, lift the handle of the corkscrew in a straight motion until the cork comes out of the bottle.

Sparkling wines. Remove the foil capsule; untwist and loosen the wire cage but do not remove it. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle pointed away from you and anyone around you; while holding the cork in one hand, twist the bottle in a downward motion with the other hand. Allow the cork to ease out until a gentle “pop” is heard. Continue to hold the bottle at this angle for a few more moments to equalize the pressure inside the bottle. Then stand the bottle up; it is ready to pour. Under no circumstances ever use a corkscrew to open a bottle of sparkling wine.

Serving Tips

• White and sparkling wine can be chilled in 20 minutes if immersed in an ice bucket containing a mixture of ice and cold water.

• A wine glass should have a stem and contain between 6 to 10 oz.

• Champagne glasses should be flute or tulip-shaped, rather than the flat, “saucer-shaped” glass.

• Wine glasses should be filled only one-third for white wines and one-half to two-thirds for red wines.

Serving Temperatures for Table Wines

• Dry white wines  50–55 degrees

• Dry, light-bodied red and rosé wines 60–65 degrees

• Dry, full-bodied red wines 65–68 degrees

• Sparkling wines 42–46 degrees

• Sweet red and white wines 42–46 degrees

Proper Order of Serving Wines

• Light wines should precede heavy or full-bodied wines.

• Dry wines should precede sweet wines.

• Dry white wines should precede dry red wines.

Dry red wines should precede sweet white wines.

• Dry sparkling wines can be served before, during or after dinner, while sweet sparkling wines are best after dinner.

• Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala are generally served after dinner. However, the dry versions — White Port, Fino Sherry, Sercial Madeira, and Dry Marsala can be served before dinner.

Well, there you have it. Now go and enjoy yourself!

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Prosecco. Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Prosecco is both the name of a grape and a sparkling wine that originates in Italy’s northeast regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto.

Prosecco is known locally in these regions as Glera. The Prosecco grape is thin-skinned with high acid and is used to make dry to sweet; still (non-effervescent) to sparkling wines. Besides Prosecco, there are other white grapes (and one red … Pinot Noir) that can be used to make a white or rosé sparkling Prosecco.

Most white Prosecco wine is released as non-vintage; the wine may be released with a vintage date if the wine contains a minimum 85 percent of the stated year’s harvest. It can be labeled Brut, Extra Dry, Dry, or Demisec. Styles of Prosecco are frizzante, spumante, and rosé. Prosecco Rosé is made from Prosecco and Pinot Noir grapes and must be vintage-dated.

There are several other higher-quality (also higher prices) sparkling Prosecco DOCG wines made. They are labeled Asolo Prosecco; Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco; and two specialty, limited-produced wines labeled Rive and Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze.

Prosecco wine is straw yellow with a fresh fruity aroma and flavor of acacia, almonds, green and red apples, apricots, bread dough, citrus (lemon, lime), fennel, ginger, hazelnut, kiwi, licorice, melon, orange, peaches, pears, tropical fruit, spices, and wild flowers.

Because of its fruit and higher level of acidity, it is a very versatile sparkling wine. Some suggested food pairings might be salmon and other salads with a touch of sweetness; fried calamari; pork with fruit sauces; chilled summer soups; prosciutto and melon; spicy curries; soy and ginger infused sauces; or even your favorite cheeseburger!

Some recommended cheeses to pair with this sparkling wine are Asiago, Brie, Camembert, Emmentaler, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano, Gruyère, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, and Ricotta.

Prosecco makes a refreshing cocktail. Two favorites are Aperol & Prosecco and Campari & Prosecco. Finally, if you are a fan of grappa, several distillers in Italy make a Prosecco Grappa.

Bellini Cocktail

The much sought-after Bellini cocktail was created in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar (opened in 1931) in Venice, Italy, to commemorate the Venetian Painter Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516).

YIELD: Serves 6


3 medium-sized ripened peaches

Dash of raspberry purée

1 chilled bottle of Prosecco


Peel and cut peaches into cubes, then put into a blender along with the raspberry purée. Pour the pulp into a carafe, then add the entire bottle of Prosecco. Stir and serve.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

I love reading quotes, especially historical, and inspirational  ones from well-known individuals, or just plain funny ones. Here are 15 of my favorite whiskey quotes that may stimulate you to reach for a bottle of your favorite brand.

“Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.” (Johnny Carson, 1925-2005, American television host and comedian)

“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whiskey. By diligent effort, I learnt to like it.” (Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965, Prime Minister of Great Britain)

“I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.” (Ava Gardner, 1922-1990, American actress)

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” (Mark Twain, 1835-1910, American humorist and novelist)

“Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say, I’m thirsty, not dirty.” (Joe E. Lewis, 1902-1971, American actor and comedian)

“I’m on a whiskey diet. I’ve lost three days already.” (Tommy Cooper, 1921-1984, British prop comedian and magician)

“Set up another case bartender! The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch.” (W.C. Fields, 1880-1946, American comic and actor)

“For a bad hangover take the juice of two quarts of whiskey.” (Eddie Condon, 1905-1973, jazz guitarist)

“I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink Scotch.” (George Burns 1896-1996, U.S. actor and comedian)

“I never should have switched from Scotch to Martinis.” (Humphrey Bogart, 1899-1957, American film actor)

“I now drink healthy … Scotch and carrot juice. You get drunk as hell … but you can still see good.” (Dean Martin, 1917-1995, American singer and actor)

“It is true that whiskey improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.” (Ronnie Corbett, 1930-2016, Scottish actor and comedian)

“My family was a bunch of drunks. When I was six, I came up missing; they put my picture on a bottle of Scotch.” (Rodney Dangerfield, 1921-2004, American comedian and actor)

“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.” (William Faulkner, 1897-1962, American author)

“I always take Scotch whiskey at night as a preventive of a toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.” (Mark Twain, 1835–1910, American humorist and novelist)

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Sangria is a fruit punch-esque cocktail that’s best enjoyed on a sunny, lazy summer afternoon. METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

When it’s hot outside I’m looking for a beverage that’s light, refreshing, chillable, perhaps somewhat acidic to cleanse my palate, but most of all … it contains alcohol.

I enjoy wine and during hot weather I have found ways to convert that glass of wine into a “wine cooler.” Here are some of my summer coolers:

A spritzer (popular in the 1970s) is a tall drink made with a base of wine (white, red or rosé) and filled with a carbonated mixer (seltzer, tonic water, ginger ale) and sometimes garnished with lemon, lime, orange, a sprig of mint, or even a cherry. Spritzers are served on ice.

One of my favorite wine coolers is a kir. It’s an apéritif drink made with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and dry white wine, named after the late mayor of the city of Dijon, France, Canon Félix Kir (1876-1968). Kir was the favorite drink of the mayor from the 1940s until his death in 1968.

Originally, kir was made by mixing Aligoté, a highly acidic white wine from Burgundy with a tablespoon of crème de cassis, served chilled. Nowadays, just about any white wine used as Aligoté is difficult to find.

To make a kir, pour 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) into 5 to 6 ounces of a dry white wine, add ice and stir.

There are many variations of this drink: Kir Royale, along with Cardinal (cassis and Beaujolais), Kir Communist (cassis and red wine), and Kir Imperial (raspberry liqueur instead of cassis and champagne).

An all-time favorite that is making a big comeback is Sangría, originally from Spain. Now you can buy premade versions or make your own, which is more fun and allows for your creativity.

Sangria is a refreshing apéritif made from a mixture of wine (red, white, or rosé), slices of citrus fruits (lemon, lime, and orange), sugar, and sometimes soda water. To make Sangria, take a bottle of a dry red, white, or rosé wine. Add one lemon, lime, orange, and apple (cored) cut into quarters, then squeezed. To this add 1/4 cup superfine sugar. Mix all ingredients (including the quartered fruit) and refrigerate for several hours. Add ice before serving and top with a Maraschino cherry.

One of my favorite ways to keep ice cubes from diluting the wine is to freeze left-over wine (red or white) in ice cube trays, then seal in plastic bags so you will always have a few cubes on hand for wine coolers. (You can even mix colors.)

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Pinot Grigio grapes come in a range of skin colors. METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Pinot Grigio is the number one selling white wine from Italy and has been for many years. This fruity, easy-to-drink, dry to off-dry wine is made throughout the world with the bulk coming from Northern Italy.

The popular wine has been grown in Italy since the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it was first introduced in Piedmont. Cultivation of the grape moved eastwards over the decades and now finds its home in the Tre Venezie, a term used to describe the three contiguous northeastern regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The Tre Venezie offers a combination of geography and climate well suited to producing high-quality grapes.

Pinot Grigio is a thin-skinned, medium acid white grape. The grape’s skin color ranges from a bluish gray to a delicate pink. During winemaking, the grapes are crushed releasing a clear juice, which is fermented minus the skins, which would otherwise add some color.

In some wine shops you can find examples of Pinot Grigio made with limited skin-contact, which are copper-colored. These wines have a greater depth of color and flavor. The Italian term for this copper-colored wine is ramato. Besides Pinot Grigio, another white wine that is made from pinkish-colored grapes is Gewürztraminer.

Grapes, like people, sometimes have alternate names; for example, Bill, Billy, Will, or Willie instead of William. Depending on their place of origin, grapes can have several or even sometimes over 100 different synonyms (names). An example is Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris; same grape but different names depending on where it is grown. Other synonyms for Pinot Grigio are Grauer Burgunder and Ruländer (Austria and Germany).

This particular wine is pale straw-yellow in color, with light green reflections. It has a delicate aroma and flavor of apples, citrus (lemon, lime, tangerine), figs, kiwi, lychee, melon, nectarine, passion fruit, pears, watercress, and white peach. Its aftertaste is of almonds and hazelnuts.

Pinot Grigio can be paired with many types of cheese. Some of my favorites from Italy are Asiago, Bagozzo, Bel Paese, Burrata, Burrini, Fontina, Montasio, Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Robiola Piemonte, and Scamorza.

There are hundreds of brands of Pinot Grigio available in the U.S. coming from dozens of countries. Some recommended Italian Pinot Grigio brands are Alois Lageder, Eugenio Collavini, Dorigo, Barone Fini, Ronco delle Betulle, Ca’ Montini, Càvit, Ecco Domani, Elena Walch, Livio Felluga, Marco Felluga, Maso Canali, Jermann, J. Hofstätter, Santa Margherita, Santi, and Zonin.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]

Metro photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Gin is a neutral spirit like vodka, which has been flavored with a range of botanicals, then redistilled.

Botanicals are parts of plants and include roots, stems, barks, leaves, flowers, berries, fruit, beans, seeds, pits, stems, skins, and so on. There are well over 100 botanicals that distillers worldwide use, and most are a proprietary mixture of a few or many.

There are a few botanicals, however, that most gin distillers use (juniper the most prevalent) and have for decades. They are lemon, orange, coriander, cassia bark, cardamom, angelica, cinnamon, orris root, and licorice.

Technically, gin which is made from a base of alcohol and flavored with botanicals could be called a liqueur if it were sweetened.

Most gin is not aged, and U.S. federal regulations do not permit age claims, distillation date, or vintage date. Gin is stored in containers of stainless steel, porcelain, concrete, glass, paraffin, or any other neutral material, although some distillers are barrel aging gin for varying amounts of time.

Gin is made in many countries especially England, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, and the United States.

Some popular types of gin are:

London Dry Gin. A generic name for gin lacking sweetness. Although originally produced only in or near London in the early 1830s, are now produced all over the world with the term having little meaning. London Dry Gin is also known as British Gin, English Gin, and Dry Gin.

Plymouth Gin. A gin produced by the Coates firm of Plymouth, England, which was founded in 1793. Plymouth gin was originally associated with the British Royal Navy, who invented this gin as a tolerable way of drinking bitters (quinine), which helped control intestinal disorders. They often mixed it with lime juice; hence the nickname limey, which is frequently applied to the British.

Genever. A gin produced primarily in Holland from a low-proof, distilled malt spirit, which is redistilled with juniper and other botanicals resulting in a heavier body than the dry gins produced in the United States and England.

Sloe Gin. It is not a gin, but a red liqueur made from sloe (little blackberries berries) that grow in bluish-black bunches on blackthorn trees, which gives it a rather tart plum flavor.

Some brands of gin to try are Aviation, Beefeater, Bols, Bombay, Bull Dog, Citadelle, Gordon’s, Hendrick’s, Junipero, Plymouth, Tanqueray, The Botanist, and Vincent Van Gogh.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]

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By Bob Lipinski

Vermouth is a wine that has been infused with various herbs and spices, sweetened with sugar and fortified with a slight amount of alcohol. For a red vermouth, caramel coloring is added to the wine.

The name “vermouth” is from the German word wermut for wormwood (a bitter herb), an integral ingredient in the drink that has been used over its history. When the Latin countries emerged as the chief producers of this type of wine in the eighteenth century, the word wermut was written as vermouth.

How Vermouth Is Made

There are many types of vermouths, so the exact production method varies from brand to brand. The wine is lightly fortified with brandy or other distilled spirits. Each winery adds a proprietary mixture of dry ingredients, consisting of aromatic herbs, roots, and barks.

 After the wine is fortified and aromatized, the vermouth is sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar, depending on the style. Wineries let the mixture rest for various amounts of time, before it is filtered and bottled. The above process has similarities to making tea. In vermouth-making, the herbs are “infused” or steeped in alcohol instead of boiling water.

Some ingredients used (there are over 100) are allspice, angelica, angostura, anise, bitter almond, bitter orange, celery, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, coriander, fennel, gentian, ginger, marjoram, myrtle, nutmeg, peach, quinine, rhubarb, rosemary, saffron, sage, sandalwood, savory, thyme, and vanilla.

Vermouth contains between 15 and 21 percent alcohol. It can be red, white, or rosé in color, and be dry, semidry, or sweet. The sweet vermouths, mostly red and a few whites, contain about 10 to 15 percent sugar. The dry vermouths contain less than 4 percent sugar.

Many countries make vermouth or a vermouth-type wine. The leading countries in production are Italy, France, U.S. Spain, Germany, Argentina, United Kingdom, and Australia.


When a bottle of vermouth (red or white, dry or sweet) is opened, it should be refrigerated and consumed within six weeks. After six weeks, the sweet and especially the dry vermouth takes on a darker color and has a somewhat musty, “off” odor.

Vermouth can be enjoyed chilled “straight up;” over ice with a twist of lemon or orange; or even with a splash of seltzer water. A drink called a “blonde and a redhead” is made with equal parts of dry white and sweet red vermouth. The wine is so versatile that it can be used in marinades, sauces, broths, and by most cooking methods, from steaming to grilling.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]