Contratto: Excellent Vermouths from the Piedmont

Made from 19th century recipes, the Contratto Vermouth and Vermouth-like aperitifs are some of the most appealing we’ve tasted. While often used as a base for cocktails, they’re also delicious by themselves over ice with a twist of citrus. The Vermouth Bianco and Vermouth Rosso include bark of the China (quinine) tree and thus are technically Chinatos. See our recent article on Chinato for more on this distinctive style of Vermouth.  Also, see our earlier review articles on white and red vermouths to learn more about the rising popularity of these beverages as younger consumers shift from higher alcohol spirits to lower alcohol drinks.

Contratto was established in 1867 by Giuseseppe Contratto and was purchased by Giorgio Rivetti in 2011.  In addition to Vermouth, the firm makes excellent sparkling wine, which we reviewed earlier.  Both an aperitif of Contratto Vermouth and Contratto Metodo Classico would be perfect accompaniments for the Thanksgiving meal.

The US Importer is Indigenous Selections.

Contratto NV Vermouth Bianco Italy ($33) 93 The Vermouth Bianco made from a 19th century recipe is the most elegant of the Contratto Vermouths. It offers an appealing spice and herbal nose including scents of lemon citrus, dried flowers and fennel and a highly complex flavor profile including notes of lemon, tangerine, butterscotch, honey and numerous herbal and spice elements. Excellent depth, too, finishing off dry. Made from a white wine base and Italian brandy with an infusion of 50 aromatics including bark of China. RS 190 g/L 18% alc.

 Contratto NV Americano Rosso Italy ($33) 92   Burnt sienna color. Showing a complex bouquet of citrus, cinnamon, burnt sugar and a hint of eucalyptus leaf, the Americano Rosso is creamy smooth and off dry. There’s an appealing note of orange marmalade along with other citrus, floral and herbal notes on the palate. Infused with a variety of aromatics including wormwood and gentian. The name Americano refers to bitterness and has nothing to do with the Western Hemisphere. 200 g/L, 16.5% alc.

Contratto NV Vermouth Rosso Italy ($33) 92  Light brown color. Spicy, coffee and date notes show on the nose with hints of licorice and citrus. Sensual and creamy on the palate with flavors that mirror the nose. Made from a white wine base of Cortese and Italian brandy infused with 31 aromatics including bay laurel, cinnamon, angelica, rhubarb roots, various citrus peels, sandal wood and bark of China. RS 180 g/L, 17% alc.


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