Monday, February 21, 2011

Chinato, It's What Wineguys Crave

Last February, I briefly wrote about Barolo Chinato after a trip to New York City. The post was about cocktails and the Chinato had been used in a Manhattan. The Manhattan was consumed in Brooklyn, to be precise.

I had become aware of Chinato sometime in the previous year and it quickly became something of an obsession. Finally, at Christmas of '09 I acquired a couple of bottles of Barolo Chinato. One was a gift from my son Travis who brought a bottle of Vergano Chinato from the big city. It was a deep red with rich cherry tones.The other bottle was purchased from Susan's Fine Wines and Liquor in Santa Fe where my other son Michael is the assistant manager. That bottle was produced by Boroli, a Barolo producer, and was much darker with darker fruits and chocolate and creosote undertones. In Brooklyn, we acquired a bottle of Vergano Americano which is made with Grignolino. The Americano is lighter than the Nebbiolo based Chinatos and that is what we used in the drinks in lieu of sweet vermouth.

All quite delicious and though dolled out in small portions, the bottles did not last long. Well, the quality held up, but consumption, not deterioration was the problem. I grilled suppliers here in Dallas, but no one had any in stock. Chinato. It's what I craved.

You might ask, "What is all the fuss about?"

Start with Barolo wine (made from the Nebbiolo grape). Age the wine for a year in a barrel. Then infuse the aromatics and age for another four years. The proprietary recipes for the infusion always start with cinchona bark (quinine) and wormwood and go from there into clove, cardamom, cinnamon and beyond. Production has always been tiny and the cost expensive.

Chinato is sweetened and lightly fortified. Extremely aromatic with rich complex flavors, it starts sweet and moves to bitter and finishes sweet. Heavy textures finish with a light refreshing flourish.

Dr. S asked me what I knew of Chinato last week and the dormant cravings came back in a heartbeat. And what do you know, one of our suppliers had a few bottles in stock, so I procured a bottle for Dr. S and bought a bottle myself. I shared it with my colleagues and now we are all in agreement:  Chinato, it's what wineguys crave.

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