A Bitter Tale

For decades some Italian wine makers have made a product called Barolo Chinato by adding quinine and herbs to Barolo wine. You aren't likely to have seen it in this country--it's labeled a digestivo , a beverage that aids digestion, and the U.S. government has a regulation against making health claims about wine, so a term meaning "digestive" could not be used on the label. Moreover, because Barolo Chinato contains not only Nebbiolo grape juice but herbs, tree bark and spices similar to those used in making vermouth, the government wasn't sure how the wine should be labeled.

But a Barolo Chinato has finally been imported to the United States, one from the house of Cappellano in Serralunga d'Alba. The importer, Winebow Inc. of Hohokus, N.J., says the item will be available in specialty shops in a few weeks. The solution to the classification problem was to list it as an amaro , a bitter.

Incidentally, quinine-flavored wine isn't limited to Italy. A similar wine, Quinato, has been made in Spain for years.

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