Bountiful botanics

The first Sussex vermouth, an English take on the Italian favourite rapidly seeing a resurgence in popularity, has been launched by Albourne Estate.

Named 40 after the number of botanicals it has been infused with, this complex tasting white, semi-dry, vermouth has been produced from grapes grown at the estate near Hurstpierpoint.

“Everyone was drinking vermouth straight or with a mixer back when Leonard Rossiter famously threw his Cinzano over Joan Collins in those iconic TV adverts,” said Alison Nightingale owner of Albourne Estate. “It took a back seat as people became more accustomed to drinking wine at home but there is a revival of interest in the drink. Vermouth bars are opening in London, following the trend in New York and it is a popular ingredient in Negroni, the cocktail of the day.”

Matured Albourne Estate base wines are blended with botanical extracts and sugar before being fortified to 18% alcohol by volume (abv). 40 uses many herbs and other ingredients which are grown in the English countryside, including rosemary, thyme, rose petals and chamomile, alongside citrus peels, more exotic spices such as saffron and cardamom and the unexpected coffee beans and tea.

Legally vermouth must contain at least 75% ‘grape-derived’ wine, which is one of the reasons why the vineyard chose to diversify into this area. “Recently most of the launches from small drinks producers have been gin,” said Alison. “But vermouth makes more sense for us as a wine producer as it is wine based and fits well with our range. We spent hours blind tasting and using different botanicals to release a product which can write a new vermouth-era for Sussex, England and beyond.”

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