Tuesday, September 19, 2023


I first tasted and learned about Vermouth/ Vermut, through my paternal family. When I was growing up, my grandmother Rosa, known to her grandchildren as grandma Tota, drank Vermouth everyday right before lunch, she used to mix some Gancia, with a bit of seltzer water and ice and served it with cheese, olives and salami as an aperitif. Of course, my father picked up this habit soon enough, and drank Vermouth every noon himself, since enjoying vermouth hour was indeed very common in the 70’s and 80’s, a tradition copied from Spain, Italy and France, countries where this ritual continues today.

Vermouth or Vermut (in Spanish) comes from the German “wermut” which means wormwood, these are the bark/ bitters used to flavor Vermouth and Absinthe. Historically, it was the monasteries that in the middle ages, used to infuse spirits and wines with botanicals to treat different types of human ailments and illnesses. Now, the actual birth of Vermouth happened much later, in 1786, when an Italian bar owner named Antonio Carpano, created his first Vermouth made from a blend of Muscat wine with local botanicals and started serving it to his customers. As you may imagine, what started in a small bar in Turin became a huge success and pretty soon, many of the important brands emerged, names like Gancia, Cinzano, Martini and Campari. This inspired the French to create their own version, which included more bitters in the recipe and therefore creating a drier style. The French took a step further and founded the first Vermouth Appellation Controlée in Chambéry in 1932. 

But, what is Vermouth? Vermouth is a fortified wine, similar to sherry and port. It starts its life as a dry table wine, to which distilled alcohol is added to about 19% ABV. This alcohol usually comes from grape or beet based spirits.  The difference here is that Vermouth is aromatized/infused, similarly to Gin, by macerating the base wine with barks, herbs, fruits, spices and botanicals. 

Most common Vermouth come in two colors, white and rosso (red), though rosé and golden versions also exist. Red vermouth or Rosso, follows the Italian recipe and is always sweet while white can be either sweet (also known as Bianco) or dry (usually labeled as extra dry). The different flavors/ aromas of Vermouth come from each producer’s own proprietary recipe, and may include spices, such as cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, anise, cloves; fruits especially citrus peel from lemon, lime, orange and bergamot; green herbs like marjoram, chamomile, juniper, hyssop, ginger, sage, oregano and most importantly barks including wormwood (the key element of Vermouth), but also juniper, angelica root, licorice root and quinine. The taste varies according to the ingredients and according to the different levels of sweetness, which is added at the end, in the form of sugar syrup and/or grape juice concentrate, also known as mistelle.  

The base wine for Vermouth can be made from any grape variety and most producers use what is widely available to them, some of the most common grapes are Clairette Blanche and Piquepoul for French Vermouth and Catarratto, Trebbiano and Muscat grapes for the Italian versions. 

Stylistically Vermouth is full-bodied and mostly spicy, featuring herbal or leafy aromas, depending on the ingredients, vermouth can also be floral, or fruity, with citrus notes, but always with a hint of bitterness and tartness, that gives the wine an extra kick! 

The best of all is Vermouth’s longer shelf life, once opened, it can last up to 3 months in your refrigerator. 

Here are my recommendations: 

Boissiere Vermouth Extra Dry was originally developed in France in 1857, but the producer moved to Turin, Italy in the 70’s. This delicious, floral vermouth features rose petals and orange blossom aromas and is infused with a blend of botanicals that includes elderflower, chamomile and coriander.   This is a true value, costing only $10.99 a bottle.

Vermouth Mata Blanco and Vermouth Mata Tinto are produced in Bierzo, Spain. The Blanco is made from 100% Godello grapes and is aged for 40 days with a blend of roots and botanicals that includes anise, saffron, mint and thyme. Their red version on the other hand, is a blend of 90% Mencia with 10% Godello grapes and is macerated for 18 month with a blend of roots, flowers and botanicals that include anise, cloves, saffron, turmeric, bitter orange and sage.The importer of these vermouths (Patrick Mata) uses his own family’s recipe that dates back from the 1880’s. $21 each.

Vermut Flores Red and Rosé are originally from Uruguay, and are made with the most important red grape variety there,Tannat. These artisanal vermuts are infused with a blend of over 27 flavorings featuring wormwood, gentian, quina bark, rosemary and coriander and 4 flowers (rose, hop, elderflower and chamomile). $19 each.

Caperitif Lot 11 is an  extra dry vermouth/aperitif from the Cape, South Africa, featuring a base wine made from Chenin Blanc, Muscat and Bukettraube grapes. To this base, they add 35 to 45 flavorings that include flowers, grapefruit, herbs, bitters and spices, grown locally in the Cape Floral region. A portion of this vermouth is aged in old oak casks, adding even more punch to the recipe. This fancy vermouth is very dry, almost reminiscent of fine gin. $43

Chazalettes Vermouth di Torino Rosso is made using a recipe that dates from 1876 featuring: wormwood, artemisia, marjoram, angelica, coriander, lemon balm, ginger, bitters, cinchona bark among other enticing flavorings. It was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who in 1907 granted the Chazalettes the rights to bear the Real House emblem on their bottle labels. $29.99

And finally, Lustau Vermuts, which are different from the rest of the samples I tasted, as they have a sherry base. The Lustau Rojo is made from a blend of Amontillado and PX sherries with botanicals that include wormwood, sage, orange peel and coriander. The Lustau Vermut Rosé features a blend of Fino and Moscatel Sherries with Tintilla de Rota wine, the recipe includes chamomile, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom and wormwood. $19 each.

As you may see, Vermouth/ Vermut offers a huge variety of flavors for you to experience, whether you choose to drink it, with ice and seltzer water like I do, or in a cocktail such as the Manhattan, Negroni or Martini.  Cheers! Silvina.

Thank you to Ole Imports, Broadbent Wine Selections, Palm Bay Imports, Europvin and Global Vineyard for sending samples to me.


#thoughtsoflawina #vermut #vermouth #aperitif #drinkupamerica #fortifiedwines.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

New End of the Summer Favorite: Lambrusco!

Emilia Romagna, located in north-central Italy is the home of many food delicacies, including Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma ham, Mortadella (known in the US as Bologna) and my favorite salad staple: Modena Balsamic Vinegar. It is also the home of a very special wine I’m drinking this summer: Lambrusco.

Made from clones of the variety of the same name, Lambrusco wines were a huge success during the late 1970s and 1980s. Back then, Riunite Lambrusco was one the most imported and consumed wines in the US. As the years went by, Americans chose to move to other styles, yet,  Lambrusco still has a fandom of consumers who love its fruitiness, its frothy style, crisp acidity and off-dry sweetness.  Above all, Lambrusco is a fun and refreshing frizzante wine to have in warm weather, I normally put it in the same category as Brachetto d’Acqui or Beaujolais Nouveau, in the sense that all of them are fruity reds that are served chilled.

Lambrusco is mostly produced by cooperatives located to the west of the city of Bologna, specifically in the provinces of Modena, Reggio nell’ Emilia and Parma. Most of its vine plantings are spread on the fertile plains of the Po river valley, but serious Lambrusco come from vines planted at the many hills (colli in Italian) of the Apennines, located to the south of Emilia-Romagna. Mass produced Lambrusco is usually sold as IGT Emilia, yet there are a few DOCs in the area too. As always, if what you want is quality, choose the DOC wines, coming from these appellations: DOC Modena, DOC Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce, DOC Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro and DOC Reggiano

What to expect when tasting a Lambrusco?

First of all bubbles, these come from their second fermentation in pressurized tanks, using the Martinotti (Charmat) method. On the nose and the palate expect red fruits such as watermelon, strawberry, cherry and raspberry but also floral notes such as roses or violets.  Dryer versions will show mushroom, mineral, herbal and even vegetal notes. Above everything Lambrusco is a lot of fun, and quite affordable too! Expect also high acidity that will counterbalance both fruitiness as well as sweetness. It’s this acidity that cleanses your palate and makes Lambrusco wines a perfect match to all kinds of foods. 

Lambruscos are usually a blend of some of the more than 12 native clones, the most important are Lambrusco di SorbaraLambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani and Lambrusco Montericco grapesEach of these will yield a different wine style: 

*Lambrusco di Sorbara is the lightest and most elegant of all Lambruscos, not only in body, but also in color. It features aromas of watermelon, orange blossom and cherries. It’s also very floral, featuring violet notes. Match these with spicy cuisine, such as Asian or Indian.

*Lambrusco Grasparossa is the biggest style of all the wines, in body, tannins, alcohol and color. It features deep purple tones and often shows black fruits, such as blueberries, plums and black currants. Match these with grilled sausages, barbecue and creamy pasta.

*Lambrusco Salamino is made from cylindrical grapes that look like salami (hence its name), this variety is also the most planted variety of Emilia-Romagna. It has the aromatics of Lambrusco di Sorbara with the structure and color of the Grasparossa. Ruby red in color, these wines show fruitful notes of raspberry, cherry and strawberry.  Match these with hamburgers, charcuterie, and cheeses.

Lambrusco also comes in different levels of sweetness, from dry to slightly sweet, so check your label for these terms: secco (dry) semi secco (semi dry) and dolce (sweet); as always, when in doubt, ask your wine sales person to point you to the right style. Ideally consume Lambrusco chilled, and within 2-3 years from vintage, while their fruit is still vibrant and super fresh.

My recommendations:

I have tasted and loved the wines of Cleto Chiarli for years, these are just three of their classic line up, that received awards in the 2023 Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Wine Guide:

*Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sorbara Brut Frizzante 2022, $20

*Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco del Fondatore Lambrusco di Sorbara 2021, $22

*Cleto Chiarli Vigneto Cialdini Lambrusco Grasparossa Di Castelvetro 2021,$20

Hoping you will give these a try soon, cheers! Silvina
















picture courtesy of Cleto Chiarli. 


 #thoughtsoflawina #lambrusco #italianwines #italy #CletoChiarli

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Bodegas Otronia, Wines from the Very End of the World

Most of us are very familiar with the great Malbec wines that Argentina successfully produces and exports, but today I would like to direct your focus further south, to the province of Chubut, where very interesting wines are coming into shape.

This province of Chubut, in the Argentinean Patagonia, is located 2,000 km from Mendoza (the Napa of Argentina), its location at 45º latitude south puts this province at the very limit where viticulture is still possible. The province as we can see in the map below, is surrounded by the Andes in the west and the Atlantic in the east.

Here, near the town of Sarmiento and facing Lake Munster, is the location where Bodegas Otronia, a certified organic wine producer, planted 50 hectares of vines divided in two distinctive plots.

Of course, every great wine is the result of the perfect combination of a unique soil and climate. The climate in Chubut is very cold but also very dry and sunny, with an average yearly temperature of only 56º Fahrenheit and less than 200 mm of rain per year. Frost is often an issue, sometimes arriving in the middle of the growing season, and then, there are the raging winds, some as strong as 100 km/h coming from the Pacific Ocean that are truly felt in the vineyards. This happens, because the Andes that act as a barrier in Mendoza, where they reach well above 6,000 meters, reach only 700 meters in Chubut, allowing the winds to come through. In an effort to protect the vines from these fierce winds, Bodegas Otronia planted poplar trees all around their vineyards to shield them.  And then, there is the soil, a magic combination of 4 different ones, as the plots are located on what used to be the riverbed of a lake, featuring Lacustrine (lake clay) eolian sands, alluvial loams and fluvial and gravelly deposits from the Senguer river.












Location of the vineyards, photo courtesy of Bodegas Otronia.


During his visit to New York a week ago, Enologist Juan Pablo Murgia presented three of his wines, and explained in detail the uniqueness of the terroir behind them and how this translates into very focused wines with purity of fruit and elegant acidity.  A believer in minimum winemaking intervention, he ferments certified organic grapes with native yeasts in concrete egg- shaped containers, and ages his wines in untoasted French oak foudres that can contain 2,500 and 5,000 liters for 12 to 20 months. 

My 3 recommendations are the wines shown by Bodegas Otronia during their presentation. By the way, the winery’s name Otronia, means “land of Otron” which is the name that the natives used to give to Lake Munster.

*Otronia 45 Rugientes Corte de Blancas 2020, $39.95

Refined white made from a blend of 48% Chardonnay, 27% Gewurztraminer and 26 % Pinot Grigio. Murgia explained what each variety contributed to this blend, Chardonnay provides the texture and weight, Gewurztraminer the delicious floral notes and Pinot Grigio its vivid acidity. Very elegant indeed! A fragrant and crisp wine that boasts attractive jasmine floral notes, with citrusy lime and grapefruit nuances. Glossy on the palate with a mineral finish.

*Otronia Block I Pinot Noir 2020, $89.95

Ethereal red, featuring plush raspberry and bright red cherry notes with forest floor tones and super silky and spicy tannins. Memorable and delicious, made from fruit planted in Block I, where clay soils predominate.

*Otronia Block III and IV Chardonnay 2020, $89.95

Classy! This wine shows zesty acidity, a characteristic of fine cool climate whites, featuring juicy white peach and green apple peel with thyme and chamomile nuances. Simply delicious and mouthwatering with a persistent smoky finish. Very much reminiscent of fine Chablis and my fave of this trio. Cheers! Silvina


#thoughtsoflawina #drinkupamerica #Chubut  #winesofargentina #bodegasotronia

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Four European Rosés to Beat this Summer's Heat!

In all 30 years that I have lived in the U.S. I have never experienced a hot summer like this one, the humidity of last week alone was just too much to bear! And what is better to drink to chill us up on dog days like these? an appetizing glass of rosé! Rosé is and will always be a summer staple, here are 4 delicious European samples sent by Taub Family Selections. All available nationwide and at $21 or less. 

Saget La Perrière “La Petite Perrière” Rosé 2022 (750ml/$13.99):
The same family that crafts outstanding and flinty Sauvignon Blancs, also produces this juicy and precise rosé from 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the Loire Valley. Fresh from start to finish, it features delicious red fruit notes that include cranberry and red cherry, combined with mouthwatering acidity and a touch of minerality.

Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2022 (750ml/$15.99): Jean Luc and Anne Colombo, famously known for their superb Rhone (Cornas) reds make this savory Provençal rosé! It showcases a blend of 67% Syrah with 33% Mourvèdre. Elegant and very fruit forward, this medium-bodied wine shows watermelon, fresh strawberry, and pineapple candy notes, with a hint of sweet spice. Appetizing, with a long, pleasing finish.

Bertani Bertarosé 2022 (750ml/$17.99): Bertarose is made from the classic Valpolicella/ Amarone blend that includes Corvina, Molinara, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes. This flavorful medium-bodied wine features the right balance of fruit and acidity, boasting plenty of white peach, sweet persimmon, and ripe raspberry notes. Vibrant with lovely length.

And finally, my fave, Planeta Rosé 2022 (750ml/$20.99): a Sicilian crisp Rosé, made from a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Nero d’ Avola grapes. Delicious and expressive, this medium-bodied wine shows ripe wild strawberries, meringue and rose petal notes. Intense, it simply invites you to keep on sipping it, ideally under the stars! 

Happy Summer to everyone! Cheers, Silvina.

#rosewine #rosesummer #thoughtsoflawina #drinkupamerica #drinkrose

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

When in London, Drink Gin!

I still remember when I was only 10 years old and my mother took me to my first English class. Back then in Argentina, all the language institutes taught British English, so I learned by listening to tapes that my teacher played on a large boombox and tried really hard to repeat what we were reading in our books. All the stories took place in London, and as I read about the Big Ben, Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, and other tourist sites, I promised myself to visit one day. Last month, I finally did it, and as I was researching information about places to go and things to do during my visit, I thought about going to a Gin distillery (Beefeater) to learn more about Gin.

Let me start by saying that though the UK would like to claim that Gin was created there, Gin was truly born in the Netherlands. Gin is indeed a derivation of the word Genever, which means Juniper in Dutch. Juniper berries are the most important ingredient in any Gin’s recipe, giving Gins their special aromatics and flavor. 

But, what is Gin and how is it made? Gin is a neutral spirit that has been infused with botanicals, which must include Juniper berries but also other flavorings, such as seeds like Caraway and Coriander, spices like Angelica root or Licorice, Citrus peel, and or different herbs. The different blends of botanicals is what will differentiate one Gin from another, and here, pretty much the sky's the limit, since one can flavor Gins with any type of combination of flavorings obtaining a different product each time.

   Botanicals used at Beefeater's distillery to make their gins.

The exact date that Gin was created is not known but there is evidence of many Juniper flavored spirits in the Netherlands starting in the 13th century.  Gin landed in the UK, after William of Orange married Mary II and became King of England in 1689. Not only he brought Juniper flavored spirits to the English court but he also promoted their commercialization by lowering the taxes on Gin, and by imposing taxes on Gin’s competitors such as French wine and Cognac. Pretty soon, these policies influenced the British drinking habits and Gin became very popular and the favorite choice of the masses. By 1720, the UK experienced what is known as the "Gin Craze", not only people drank Gin all day long but also a quarter of houses produced homemade Gins. Those were also the days when a pint of Gin was cheaper than a pint of beer, and drunkenness in London was a big problem. Pretty soon things got so out of hand, the government was forced to intervene and they did so with the first Gin act, whose objective was to slow down production and consumption. The government raised taxes on Gin, and raised the cost of the licenses to produce it and sell it, as well as paying informants to bring illegal Gin producers to justice. Of course this was not easily accepted by the masses, and London experienced all kinds of riots and protests. At the same time London saw a multiplication of illegal distilleries that produced Gins that were very toxic for human consumption and that included turpentine and sulphuric acid, considered then flavor enhancers. Yet, consumption continued heavily until 1751, after that many distilleries closed down and consumption finally decreased. Gin was then replaced by another drink that is extremely popular in the UK today: beer.

Now, how is Gin made? The basis of Gin is a neutral spirit, which can be based on grains, potatoes, sugar cane or beets. The base spirit is obtained by passing the fermented juice through a continuous still.  The science behind distillation is very simple, because alcohol boils at 78ºc, a lower temperature than water, which boils at 100º c, this will allow us to make a distilled spirit by simply heating out the base. Alcohol then evaporates leaving all water behind, then it’s a matter of collecting those vapors, which are cooled down by condensation. This process is how all spirits are made, with most going through two or more distillations. The more times you distill the liquid, the more neutral the spirit will be and the higher the final alcohol in your product.  Once you have the neutral spirit or base, then comes the most important part in Gin, the infusion with the botanicals, which can happen in different ways. Traditionally, botanicals were infused by heat (similar to making tea), yet some producers also do a cool infusion, and others a vapor/ steam infusion that will provide lighter, more elegant flavors. The variation in the infusion style, as well as the botanicals’ secret recipes, is what gives each Gin their own personality. 

There are several styles of Gin, but the classic in the UK is known as London Dry Gin, which is used to make most cocktails. It is dry, light in body and very aromatic, with plenty of Juniper berry and citrus flavors. No sweeteners, botanicals or flavors can be added after the distillation is complete, only water is added to cut it down. Though labels include the word London on them, this is a reference to their style and not the location where the Gins are made, actually some London Dry Gins are made outside of London. Navy Strength Gins are made like regular London Dry Gins, but they contain higher alcohol, these Gins must have a minimum of 50% ABV vs 37.5% in London Dry Gins. They tend to be flavorful, as they contain less water and therefore are in a way more concentrated. Old Tom Gins, on the other hand, are sweeter styles thanks to the addition of simple syrup, licorice, or even honey. Contemporary Gins are Gins that feature other flavors than Juniper berries, such as vegetables like cucumbers, rosemary, thyme, etc and finally Fruit Flavored Gins are Gins infused with specific fruit flavors and in certain cases color, which is added after their distillation. Beefeater has a full line of these, featuring flavors that include: strawberry, cranberry, rhubarb, blackberry, etc.  

Most Gins are not aged, yet some producers have experienced aging some of their products in wood in an effort to offer a spin on the classic flavor.

My recommendations are two Gins I tasted at the distillery, which are also available in the US:

Beefeater London Dry Gin, $29.99
A classic staple, made in London following the same recipe created by founder James Burroughs in 1863. It features 9 botanicals that include  Juniper, Coriander seed, Angelica root, Angelica seed, Orris root, Licorice root, Seville Orange peel, Lemon peel and Almonds.

Beefeater 24 Gin, $39.99

A sophisticated recipe inspired by modern London. It features a blend of 12  botanicals (as shown as in London Dry Gin), plus the addition of exotic teas that include Japanese Sencha and Chinese Green tea. 

Sadly the other two samples I tasted during my visit: Beefeater London Garden and Beefeater Monday’s Gin are only available in the UK. If you are interested in paying them a visit, you can book your tour through their website.

Before I leave you, let me share another historical fact about the famous “Gin & Tonic” drink recipe and how it came to be. This well known drink originated out of necessity and in the navy, when it was discovered that the only remedy to fight Malaria was the consumption of Quinine. Quinine, the key element in Tonic Water, didn’t taste good on its own, so in order to make it more appealing to consumers, or I should say patients, it ended up being blended with some Gin. Here is the classic recipe:

Gin and Tonic:
1 part of your favorite London Dry Gin
2 parts preferred Tonic water
Lemon and orange wedges to garnish. 

Blend the gin, with the tonic water, add some ice, and a wheel of lemon or of orange, and give it a stir. Yum!!! so delicious and refreshing for summer. 

Until the next one, drinkupamerica! Cheers, Silvina

#thoughtsoflawina #gin #drinkupamerica #london #beefeaters #londondrygin.