In martinis, I've been enjoying the dry vermouth from the old French house of Dolin in Chambéry in the French Alps. But I recently tried Dolin's blanc (as opposed to dry) as an apéritif all on its own. Served on the rocks with a twist of lemon, it has a wonderfully complex taste, herbal but more sweet than medicinal. It tastes like a meadow full of wildflowers, refreshing and pure. And each small sip carries so much interest you tend to drink it more slowly than a glass of wine to make it last.
The recipe (and the firm) dates from the 19th century. Basically, Dolin vermouth is white wine steeped in as many as 54 plants and herbs (including wormwood, hyssop, quinine bark and rose petals) for some months. The difference between more commercial vermouths and this one is quite dramatic. I should note too that Vermouth de Chambéry has had its own appellation since the '30s.
Also available in half bottles in some stores.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Region: Savoie, France
Price: $11 to $17
Style: Aromatic and sweet
What it goes with: A twist of lemon as an apéritif
Where to find it: BevMo locations, Beverage Warehouse in Marina del Rey (310) 306-2822, www.beveragewarehouse.com; Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463, www.hitimewine.net; K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood, (323) 464-9463, www.klwines; Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood, (323) 655-5557, www.melandrose; Silverlake Wine in L.A., (323) 662-9024, www.silverlake; and Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, (818) 222-1111, www.whwc.com; among others.