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The next, and perhaps most interesting, addition to our old booze offerings centers around the elixir known as Chinato. First produced for its supposed medicinal qualities in Serralunga d’Alba in the early 1800s (quinine bark, rhubarb and gentian among other ingredients were steeped in Barolo wine and grappa with a bit of sugar added to soothe stomach ailments), it fell out of favor in the mid-1900s, replaced by cheaper, distilled bitter alternatives. Many of the old-school Barolo producers continued to make the famed digestif throughout the century and still do today as it is slowly coming back into fashion among wine and spirit enthusiasts. As one of the longest-lived wines in the world, there is no wonder that Barolo’s fortified version can live for decades, evolving into a rare treat for adventurous souls.
We were also pleased to receive a small assortment of vintage Sciactrac. As mentioned in an earlier email containing Sciactrac: ‘The best we can determine is that a “Vino Liquoroso” is made the same way as Port: alcohol is added to sweet, partially-fermented wine; fermentation is thus halted and the wine remains sweet, or at least off-dry. “Sciactrac” is surely an older version of the currently used and official term “Sciacchetra”, which is a passito-style wine of the Cinque Terre; the grapes are partially dried on the vine or on straw mats, and then pressed to make an intense and rich wine with varying degrees of sweetness.’
Also included in this list are a few examples of china – a base of neutral spirit and quinine along with citrus and other botanicals that more closely resembles amaro in style – as well as an assortment of passito. Cheers! Tim Gagnon