Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth: From Sherry With Love

In a number of respects, Vermouth is the Rodney Dangerfield of the wine world, not getting sufficient respect. Many people don't even realize that it's a wine, thinking it's only a minor ingredient in cocktails. That needs to be changed and Vermouth needs to be respected and loved for all that it can offer.

As I've said before, "It's a wine with a fascinating history that extends back thousands of years...It can be delicious and complex, intriguing and diverse, and offers a template upon which a producer can put their individual stamp." Vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine, which works well in cocktails but also can be enjoyed on its own, maybe with a ice cube or two. The intriguing complexity of some Vermouth makes it a compelling wine on its own. Fortunately, there are numerous producers taking Vermouth seriously, creating some unique and fascinating Vermouths, from a wide range of base wines and botanicals.

Gonzalez Byass, which was founded in 1835, is a Sherry producer, one I visited back in 2010, and they export a wide range of delicious Sherries. Back in the 19th century, they also made Red Vermouth, and two years ago they started to produce it once again, using the original recipe as their foundation. I received a media sample of this new product, the Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth, and it is impressive and complex, delicious and versatile. This is a Vermouth for Sherry lovers, wine lovers and cocktail lovers, earning my highest recommendation.

The specific recipe for their Vermouth is considered proprietary, so they won't provide it, except that is not fully the case. Each year, the González Byass Foundation celebrates International Archives Day, which is held annually on June 9, by opening up their Historical Archives to the public. On this day, they have previously displayed the original recipe for their Vermouth, from 1896, and might do so again at future International Archives Days. They also have provided some basic information about the formula, enough to be intriguing.

The La Copa Vermouth is a blend of 75% Oloroso Sherry and 25% Pedro Ximinez Sherry, both from soleras that are approximately eight years old. It is rare to find any Vermouth made from Sherry, and we certainly need more such Vermouths. Some of the botanicals that are blended into the Vermouth include wormwood, angelica, savory, clove, orange peel, nutmeg, quinine, and cinnamon. The name, "La Copa," derives from the name of the branding iron used on the cattle and horses of the ranch of Marqués de Torresoto, the son of the bodegas’s founder Manuel Maria González. The label for the La Copa is also based on the original 19th century label for their Vermouth.

Relaunched in June 2016, La Copa Vermouth ($25) is a taste of history but one which also presents well in the present. On the nose, its complexity is first experienced, a wonderful melange of spices, salted nuts, and citrus notes. It's an alluring nose, one that will entice you to drink, to hopefully realize the vast promises of those aromas. On the palate, you're not disappointed in the least, intrigued by its complexity, balance and elegance. There is a superb blend of spices and herbs, with nuts, caramel, a touch of plum, candied orange and more. The Sherry influence is prominent and well integrated. There is balanced sweetness with hints of bitterness, exactly what you want from a fine vermouth. It's smooth with a lengthy, satisfying finish and is wonderful on its own, though it also does great in a Manhattan.

It is the use of the Sherry which elevates the quality of this Spanish Vermouth and I would love to see other Vermouths using Sherry as the base. Gonzalez Byass is producing a compelling wine, and I strongly recommend that all wine lovers sample this intriguing Vermouth. Consume it on its own, reveling in its complexity, or use it in your favorite cocktail.

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