Italy is home of one of the world’s finest aromatized, fortified wines. Made popular in the late 19th Century and enjoyed across the continents, Martini is a name that we all know and recognize. A vermouth that many associate with the famous cocktail, Martini is misunderstood by many. Our distillery tours aim to break down the myths and misinterpretations, opening up a whole new world of tasting for anyone who enjoys learning about wines and spirits.
Distilleries in Italy have a long, rich and captivating history, filled with stories to entice you in. And as Italian vermouth undergoes a revival, distillery tours are becoming as popular as wineries for discerning travelers. Our local travel experts will give you access to the most exclusive distilleries in the country, where you will learn all about iconic vermouth brands like Martini.
Vermouths are primarily produced in Italy or France, but it was first introduced in Italy, and it is here where you will find the oldest distilleries and vermouth bars. Italy is considered to be the beating heart of the vermouth industry, and with Wine Paths you’ll get an insider look at how the nation’s favorite drink is crafted.
The process of distillation is a fascinating one, and our distillery tours are an excellent opportunity to watch the process of vermouth-making in action. Martini vermouth is produced by starting with a base of neutral grape wine or unfermented wine. Several wine grapes, including Clairette blanche, Piquepoul, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Catarratto and Trebbiano, are generally used to get a low-alcohol wine that is aged for a short period before adding other ingredients.
To be classified as a vermouth in Europe, under EU regulations, wine needs to make up at least 75% of the mixture. It also must contain Artemesia (such as wormwood) and this is to be used as the main bittering agent. The finished product must be fortified and must be between 14.5% and 21% ABV.
Distilleries in Italy have historically focused on producing two main types of vermouth – the sweet type and the dry type. But over recent years, brands have developed a variety of styles to suit every drinker. Martini, one of the oldest and most well-known vermouth distillers in the world, takes a modern approach to distilling. Within its core collection, there is Martini Extra Dry, Martini Bianco, Martini Rosso, Martini Rosato and Martini Fiero.
The illustrious label’s Riserva Speciale range is a new style of vermouth, marrying a unique fusion of rare botanicals with classic distillation methods. The finished products celebrate old and new, and appeal to a new kind of Martini drinker.
In terms of regions, there are two main regions for vermouth distilleries in Europe. That is Vermouth de Chambery (France) and Vermouth di Torino (Italy).
Commercial distilleries have existed in Italy since the 18th Century, but the art of distilling dates back much further. The process of distillation spread from the Middle East to Italy in Medieval Europe, and the earliest evidence of alcohol distilling appears to be from the School of Salerno during the 12th Century. Fractional distillation was later developed by Tadeo Alderotti in the 13th Century, which was the separation of a mixture into its component parts.
Back in Medieval times, the use of alcohol was for medicinal purposes. Distilled alcoholic drinks were consumed to avoid water-borne diseases such as cholera, and it is believed that the numbing properties of the alcohol often acted as a painkiller for the sick. It wasn’t until a few centuries later that alcohol was distilled for enjoyment. It has often been said by historians of distilled alcohol that “the sixteenth century created it; the seventeenth century consolidated it; the eighteenth popularized it."
The oldest distillery in Italy is Bortolo Nardini, an iconic family distillery specializing in Italian grappa that was founded in 1779. Vermouth doesn’t follow too far behind on the timescale. The first sweet vermouth was introduced in 1786 in Turin, in the Piedmont region of Italy, by merchant Antonio Benedetto Carpano. This was inspired by a similar product in Germany that used wormwood to fortify white wine.
Vermouth was accepted at the court of Vittorio Amedeo III and became so popular that every bar and café created their own recipe, often distilling it in their own underground chambers. The famous company Martini was founded in 1863 by Alessandro Martini and partners Luigi Rossi and Teofilo Sola in Pessione. This eminent brand took the world by storm, with their original vermouth being sold in 70 countries and across every continent by the turn of the 20th Century.
Distillery tours are the perfect opportunity to discover more about your favorite spirits. Technically, vermouth is a fortified, aromatized wine made with wine grapes and distilled for an ABV boost. During a distillery visit, you will be able to learn more about how the vermouth is made, what ingredients are used, and how long it takes.
You will be able to enjoy a tour of the premises, watch the production process in action, and you’ll be able to see the copper stills and equipment up close. For Martini fans, Casa Martini has a great lounge bar area where you can master the art of mixology and learn to blend the perfect vermouth.
At Wine Paths, we create bespoke tasting holidays for connoisseurs and beginners alike. Whether you are already an aficionado of vermouth or you would like a cultured crash course on tasting different varieties, we can tailor our distillery tours for you.
The Martini & Rossi historical distillery and museum is located in Pessione of Chieri (not far from Turin’s city center). The distillery site was chosen as it is close to the railroad as well as the grape-growing and herb-growing regions. At the Martini distillery, they not only produce a selection of vermouths ranging from sweet to dry to fruit-led, but also sparkling wines.
Find out more about our Martini and vermouth distillery tours in Italy from our local travel expert.