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Italian Aperitif Wines?

My husband and I enjoy sherry and Lillet, and wonder if there are any Italian aperitif wines - we've asked an Italian friend and at a couple of Italian restaurants, with no luck. Not a fan of campari - we usually end up having a glass of prosecco.


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  1. There are several styles of Vermouth that are appropriate for use as an aperitivo (though I believe that the French make the best Vermouth), there is a wine based aperitivo produced by Cocchi, called Aperitivo Americano (similar to Lillet Blanc). And, while I understand it is largely consumed after dinner in Italy, Barolo Chinato makes a great apertif on the rocks.

    1. This doesn't really sound like what you are looking for, but sweet bubbly yet crisp, tart, bitter-edged Brachetto d'Acqui is a great Italian aperitif wine.

      1. Among the vermouths, Cinzano and Martini+Rossi make a "bianco" that's slightly sweet and often served (like Lillet) as an aperitivo. Italians will often drink amari, or bitterish drinks, before dinner as well as after but if you don't like Campari, then these are probably not for you. Try Punt e Mes, a red-vermouth based aperitif, on ice with a slice of orange or lemon.

        2 Replies
        1. re: obob96

          A resounding second to Punt e Mes. Red vermouth with extra bitters. A knock-out on the rocks but skip the orange and try it with a wedge of lime squeezed into the glass.

          1. re: obob96

            As I recall, Cinzano bianco is more than slightly sweet, much sweeter than Lillet.

            I like red vermouth the way the Italians drink it: straight up, cool but no ice, no lemon, in the bottom of a highball glass.

            The most common aperitif in Rome is a flute of Prosecco.

          2. Speaking of Vermouth, I would recommend Carpano's Antica Formula. Truly exceptional. Check out this (and follow the various links): http://www.wilsondaniels.com/product....

            Otherwise, Punt e Mes . . .

            1. I'm kind'a confused with this thread.
              By "wine" I assume you mean something btw 11% & 14% alcohol?
              I just checked my (very limited) aperitivi shelf and I read labels going from 16.5% (Cynar) all the way to a whopping ... 26% for Campari.
              If by "aperitif wine" you mean a wine, then by all means the Prosecco suggested above is the way to go.
              If, on the other hand, your emphasis in on the "aperitivo", then you get into the muddy waters of vermouths and such, of which I'm not precisely a great fan. If for no other reason that the wine base used in these concoctions is just terrible terrible quality juice.

              6 Replies
              1. re: RicRios

                If the base were bad wine, the vermouth would taste bad. As some cheap ones do.

                Aperol's only 11%.

                1. re: RicRios

                  I guess what I mean is an aperitivo that is grape based, though I don't think wine is limited by a 14% alcohol content no? I think I've had an Amarone w/ a higher content.

                  What I don't enjoy is the bitterness associated w/ beverages such as Campari.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Wine categories, at least as far as the US is concerned, are generally based upon TAX revenues and, as such, have little to do with reality. Table wines are wines under 14.00% alcohol, and as such, are taxed at one rate; wines between 14.01% and (IIRC) 21% are taxed at a different rate, and are often described as "fortified" even though no fortification has taken place. Sparkling wines are taxed at yet another rate, and so on and so on . . . .

                    1. re: zin1953

                      I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of >14% wine labeled "fortified."

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Robert, I'm sorry if I was unclear. I don't think I ever mentioned anything about labels. "Described as" is quite different than "labeled as" -- or, at least, I thought that was obvious. I regret any confusion.

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      Some wines can ferment naturally to around 17-18% alcohol, but Lillet and vermouth are fortified.

                  2. Vin Santo - my hands down favorite dessert wine. Here's my recommendation - it's pure heaven and very special. It's approx. $30 for a small bottle - don't even bother with anything cheaper.

                    Felsina Berardenga Vin Santo Chianti Classico 1998

                    From the winery:
                    Vineyards: Northeast of Siena in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga.
                    Grape varieties: Malvasia, Trebbiano and 20% Sangiovese. The clusters are air-dried on mats until January or February following harvest.
                    Maturation: Seven years in the vinsantaia loft-area in small casks, with the "mother" (thick substance remaining from previous vintages), then 12 months in bottle. Suitable for long cellaring.
                    Characteristics: Passito white wine. "Meditation" or sipping wine to be enjoyed with hard cheeses, including sharp and herbed varieties. Serving temperature: 8-14°C, depending on preference and occasion.
                    Sensory profile: Gold yellow, with coppery highlights. Scents of peach, apricot, ripe pineapple (tropical fruit). The palate demonstrates considerable weight, velvety smoothness, and elegant fruit nicely married to the oak. The finish is satisfyingly lengthy.

                    1. The base to make Vermouth is wine, you must add several things, such "herbs" sugar and alcohol, thats why vermouth is over 15º of alcohol; vermouth may be taken as an aperitive but normally you shoul add a little soda wather at least 50%, then it may be taken as an aperitive, by the way, italians are great people coping or comecializing others producctions, Spain is a great productor of vermouth, but in Spain vermouth is not botleled, you get the quantity you want, and a lot of people use vermouth in cooking

                      1. Ferrando Erbaluce di Caluso