A 100% organic martini is now on the menu for lovers of white vermouth.
Hastings Distillers – renowned for its award-winning selection of premium organic gins and liqueurs –has added two certified organic dry vermouths to its line-up, each one delicious, distinctive, and daring.
Following the success of the Rubis red vermouth, launched in 2021, Hastings Distillers founders David Ramonteu and his partner Kate Galloway began working on a white version of this elegant aperitif.
Vermouth has a wine base and is flavoured with herbs, but David says commercial versions of the drink often contain high sugar and are loaded with preservative. The two Aubyn vermouths, by comparison, are low in sugar and produced using only organic Chardonnay grapes, sourced from Maraekakaho in Hastings, and Kate’s beautifully expressed blend of 21 botanicals, chosen especially for each vermouth.
“We’ve used indigenous yeast – that is, yeast found in the vineyard where the grapes are grown – to ferment the wine base of the vermouth,” explains David, who is French and grew up in a winemaking family. “We use every part of the grape – the pips, the stalks, the skins, and add nothing but pure alcohol, and Kate’s botanicals – wormwood, lemongrass, sage, thyme, curry plant, kaffir lime, and wild pepper among them – to create the finished product.”
There’s no sulphur, preservative, or fining when producing any Hastings Distillers liqueur or aperitif, and as pioneering natural winemakers, this extends to their vermouth, also. “The natural wine movement has gathered plenty of momentum in recent years,” notes Kate. “There’s a growing appetite for wines that are low intervention, and we believe that focus will soon shift to fortified wines also. Our vermouths will appeal to anyone who enjoys the textures, flavours and provenance of natural wines.”
There’s an apparent difference in the colour and flavour profile of each vermouth, which comes down to the methods David has used in their development.
“We made two versions of the Aubyn vermouth to suit two different purposes,” he says. “For the Orange, the colour comes from contact with ripe Chardonnay skins. The result is an off-dry style, which is wonderful served over ice, perhaps with a splash of soda, before dinner.”
The Blanc is an extra dry style, which is lovely chilled and sipped, good with food and will appeal to dry wine drinkers.
“We are pushing the boundaries on dryness with the Blanc Extra Dry” says Kate. “But we’re quickly learning that our clientele enjoy how unique the flavour is – saline and savoury, like a complex dry wine.”
Kate says she feels strongly that vermouth is having its coming of age, and New Zealanders are perhaps ready to branch out from their traditional gin and tonics and into something herbaceous and exciting. She says the explosion of premium and boutique gins on the market has paved the way for vermouth’s moment in the sun. “Our palates have certainly matured through our love affair with gin – we’re now used to exploring botanicals and understanding different blends of herbs. In Europe, vermuterias are appearing all over France and Spain as people come to enjoy a lightly chilled vermouth or an expertly blended martini with their bowl of warmed olives, or their wedge of frittata. It won’t be long until we see that happening more here as well.”
For a perfect organic martini, Kate recommends a chilled glass, one part Aubyn vermouth (either variety) and six parts East Block gin, mixed over ice and strained into your glass. The Aubyn Extra Dry suits either lemon or a savoury garnish such as green olives or a cocktail onion. The Aubyn Orange Dry suits a grapefruit twist.
“It’s an impressive, simple cocktail that really is timeless when done well.”
Aubyn Orange and Aubyn Blanc Extra Dry are now available at the Hastings Distillers’ Tasting Room, 231 Heretaunga Street, Hastings.