A Special Collection of Amaro and Chinato

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Excluding some malt Whisky, it’s very unusual to find a vintage date on a bottle of booze. According to the previous owner, everything in this collection was purchased prior to 1990, and most of it well before then. We’ve noted a few bottles that have dated tax-stamps, and there are some with period labels that give a clue to the date of the bottle.  We’ve offered some older Chinato in the past, but otherwise we’ve never had anything like this group, which I think falls into a category you might call super-rare. We haven’t had a chance to taste very many old Amaro, but the few we’ve tried seem to have benefited from aging in a manner similar to Chinato.

In Italian, 'china' = quinine. 'Genepy', which you will see mentioned in several of the Amaro names, is similar to Absinthe, using the plant called Artemisia (and other Alpine herbs) for flavor and color. Jamie Wolff

 

 

By buying cellars in Europe, we’ve had the good fortune of seeing historic wines that are close to impossible to find in the American market. Some recent eyebrow raisers have been 40 year old Ciro, 50 year old Chambave Rouge and even historic Grappa, but today we are excited to offer an unparalleled collection of old bottles of one of Italy’s classic digestivos: Chinato. Chinato is a fortified wine combined with a variety of botanicals, most notably quinine, and then a bit of sugar is added to help soften the bitter edge of the herbal cocktail. These spirits are phenomenal when young – Cappellano is the modern benchmark – and as they age, the flavors of wine and botanics become more mellow and integrated. The combination of a robust wine (often Barolo) with sugar and alcohol creates a beverage with an almost infinite maturation arc – we had a delicious bottle of Cappellano from the 1960s in Monforte last April, which showed a wonderful mélange of flavors associated with mature Barolo: spice, iron and cherry liqueur, but also had phenomenal aromatics of clove, tea and tonic. Most producers have stopped making this style of digestivo, so this collection is particularly notable for including some favorite names in Piedmont wine on some of these beautiful, old bottles. This is a unique opportunity to try a bit of Italy’s potable history that we don’t expect to see again.  John Rankin

 

A bottle of Cavallotto Chinato from the 1950s was my first taste of Chinato and pretty much spoiled me forever. The Cappellano’s have always been very generous in offering tastes of old Chinato, and they are remarkable; not faded at all but beautifully integrated and balanced.


 

Zabaldano and Cappellano are credited with the creation of the best Chinato – at least on a commercial level, and Zabaldano was once a very important commercial producer of Chinato in Monforte (the distillery was a small building on one of the Bussia roads that had a faded but lovely Zabaldano logo painted on it, but Prunotto tore it down last year to build something bigger).

 

It’s difficult to find these old bottles, and it’s even harder to find any info about them in print or online; we have plenty of unanswered questions that will have to wait for our next visit to Piemonte. In the meantime, there is this interesting piece by Levi Dalton: http://soyouwanttobeasommelier.blogspot.com/2011/11/amari-file-chinato-as-it-was.html

You can see a wonderful line-up of photos of old Cappellano Chinato posted by our friend Ken Vastola, here: http://www.finewinegeek.com/chinato/cappellano.html

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Amer de la sante Amer Antique "1838" (tax-stamp 1969)

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Riccadonna Bianco Americano

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Riccadonna Vermouth Rosso 1 L (old bottling)

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Zucca, Ettore Rabarbaro

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Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Chinato Etichetta Rossa 1 L

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Zabaldano Barolo Vecchio China 1 L

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