Thursday 21 April 2011

Noilly Prat

Many of the vines growing in the commune are the Clairette variety and their wine is almost certainly still tankered down the road from the cave coopérative to Marseillan where for over 150 years the archetypal French dry vermouth Noilly Prat is produced. Mankind's relatively recent ability to make mass produced crisp dry white wines has rather dented the popularity of these quite alcoholic herb infused aperitifs, although the fashion for utilising vermouth in cocktails continues to prop up demand. I use several bottles a year for cooking whenever white wine is called for and especially in fish dishes. It has two big advantages - more flavour and an opened bottle keeps well.

When in Marseillan one can visit the production facility. The Clairette wine is blended with another local variety Picpoul along and flavourless spirit is added. Next it's piped into these old barrels and left outside for 12 months to oxidise. After that it goes indoors into larger barrels where the secret blend of herbs, roots, spices and the like are added for an infusion period. Finally the resulting vermouth is tankered across to the Rhone valley to be bottled.

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