I love a master class. It gives the chance to try a brand that you may have never have experienced properly, or even knew that they had more than one expression available. It also has the opportunity on the odd occasion to meet some fascinating industry figures, whether it’s a brand ambassador, master distiller or in the followings case, a member of the family that owns the brand.
Epernay are a regular venue for these sort of things, and recently hosted the Italian name of Giulio Cocchi, a specialist in wine, courtesy of Robert Jupp of Speciality Brands.
So who are, or indeed who was, Giulio Cocchi?
Giulio Cocchi founded his business in the north-western Italian town of Asti in 1891. As a young pastry chef, he became fascinated with the pairing of food and found in Asti, the capital of Moscato wines, a natural attitude to blend wines and herbs. Giulio began producing aromatic-infused wines and bottle fermented sparkling wines. By the turn of the century two in particular – Barolo Chinato and Aperitivo Americano – had become very popular, not only throughout Piedmont, but also in the export markets of London, New York, Africa and South America.
Giulio Cocchi is now owned and operated by the Bava Family (of whom member Roberto Bava was present at the masterclass), themselves highly renowned wine producers. Today, the winery still maintains its artisan character using only traditional techniques to craft the wines and add no additives or colorants.
It’s three main expressions here in the UK include the name that is widely regarded as the original Americano, and has been made continuously since 1891 using only natural ingredients. To aromatise the white wine a secret blend of herbs and spices are added to the Muscato base which is then steeped over a period of time. Only produced in small batches, the bottles are laid down for a year before release. Also, to mark the 120th anniversary of when Giulio Cocchi first made vermouth, the production of Cocchi’s original recipe Vermouth di Torino was resumed in 2011. Vermouth di Torino is one of only two geographically protected AOC vermouths (the other being Chambery). This Storico Vermouth di Torino follows the regional tradition of using fine Moscato wine as its base, which is then infused with a secret recipe of local and exotic botanicals. Once produced, the vermouth is stored in barrel to ensure the blend is fully married.
Finally, Barolo Chinato is a fortified wine which was traditionally drunk for medicinal purposes to guard against fevers and stomach upsets, but also gifted as a sign of hospitality. Today it is more commonly used as a digestif and is a great way to round off a meal, as well as being unbeatable with chocolate. Cocchi’s Barolo Chinato still follows the traditional recipe: Barolo DOCG wine is infused with the bark of the Calissaja Quinine tree, red china, rhubarb root, gentian and cardamom seeds as well as a secret blend of herbs and spices before being laid down for lengthy maturation in old Barolo casks.
So how does the Giulio Cocchi range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes alongside some of the Cocchi sparkling wines –
Cocchi Americano – 16.5%
Slightly bitter on the nose with an aromatic scent of orange wandering. Sweet flavours on the palate with a slight bitterness, but moves into a smooth yet dry finish.
Cocchi Americano Rosa – 16.5%
Sweet and ripe on the nose with a burst of dark fruit. Very sweet on the palate with cherry flavours and bitterness developing. Very long with a slightly dry finish.
Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino – 16%
Liquorice, iodine, vanilla and caramel blend well on the nose and are well-balanced once onto the palate. Bitter sweetness grows but enjoys a fresh finish. Dry at the very end.
Cocchi Barolo Chinato – 16%
Deep rich and aromatic aromas of orange and cherry on the nose, followed by a sweet, long offering of rhubarb, spice and orange with a hint of freshness coming through.
Ripe on the nose with lots of aromatic scents of rose that lighten near the end. Fresh on the palate with a dry, lingering finish of cherry.
Light with sweet notes of peach developing a richer aroma. Green apple flavours on the palate that linger and sweeten on a dry finish.
The Cocchi Americano is considered the closest replacement to the now defunct Kina Lillet in a classic cocktail –
Shake over ice until well chilled, then strain into a deep goblet and garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel.
Many a bar are catching on to the popularity of the Cocchi range, especially with the versatility of each product within cocktails or simple serves such as sparkling wine. A must have for your drinks cabinet, and give your bartender the challenge of the Vesper above and see why it has become such a classic name.
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