Apéritif wines are more than just beverages, they’re a custom long-practiced in Europe––and it only takes looking at a few bar menus to see that they’re catching on at an accelerating rate in America too. What makes a wine an apéritif is more a product of occasion, location, and the character of the food following the apéritif than the character of the wine itself. The best starting point for choosing one is with the definition of apéritif, a French word that evolved from the Latin verb aperture that means “to open.” As such, an apéritif (whether wine or not) is a drinkable appetizer meant to stimulate the appetite before a meal; it is the counterpart to the digestif that closes the meal. If you are having guests over, apéritifs are a perfect way to welcome them.
So how do you choose the right apéritif? There aren’t really any rules other than choosing a beverage that’s enjoyable and intriguing to drink. Gin, fortified wines, liqueurs, cocktails and even beer qualify. That being said, apéritifs are typically light-bodied alcoholic beverages, and most-commonly a dry and bittersweet white wine. The Spanish and Italian favorite, Vermouth is by far the most prevalent apéritif wine in the world, but apéritifs can vary greatly by region. The Greeks love ouzo, the Germans Riesling, the Portuguese port, the French cognac or Champagne (especially in a kir royal). Americans are well-known to have used Chardonnay as our go-to apéritif wine, but we’ve begun to branch out to the fortified wines and herbal liqueurs that many Europeans have enjoyed for ages. So take your pick from our brands below. Then, relax and awaken your tastebuds.
HOW TO DRINK APERITIF WINE:
While an apéritif wine can be sipped as is, if it is a fortified wine you may want to enjoy it on the rocks or with a splash of soda and a peel of your favorite citrus fruit to tone down the bitter flavor. You can also make a wide variety of cocktails. Some of the most famous are the Martini, the Manhattan, and James Bonds’ favorite: the Vesper.