Nestled in the port of Marseillan on the south coast of France, the Noilly Prat Distillery is bathed in bright sunlight and benefits from the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The surrounding area is known for its abundant oyster beds, the produce of which, happens to go very well with the dry, aromatic beverage of vermouth.
Noilly Prat: The Original French Vermouth
What is Vermouth?
Vermouth is a type of aromatised wine which has been macerated with spices. Italians specialise in making red vermouth, which is a sweet, red wine-based spirit. The French, on the other hand, specialise in making dry, white vermouth, which has a bitter, dry and floral flavour.
How is Vermouth Made?
Vermouth is made by first making the wine. Noilly Prat uses speciality grapes of the Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette varieties, which are grown in the Marseillan region, near the distillery. The wines produced by the growers are poured into large casks, taking on the flavours of the Canadian oak the barrels are made from, as they mature over an 8-month interval.
When their time is up, the wine is transferred into smaller oak barrels and left outside for an entire year, to endure the seasons. Here, the wine dries out as it is battered by rain, wind, sunshine and low temperatures during the winter. After this process, the wine takes on an amber colour and becomes full-bodied. It tastes similar to Madeira or Sherry. The liquid inside the barrels is known to evaporate during this period and between 6-8% of the volume is lost.
The wine is brought back to the cellars where it is laid to rest for several months and blended into new oak casks. Grape juice mixed with alcohol, otherwise known as ‘Mistelle’, is added to the solution to gently sweeten and soften the wine. The addition of fruit essence helps to bring out the natural flavours of the wine. A distilled spirit, such as brandy, is also added to the mixture to increase the alcohol by volume, or ABV. Raising the alcohol level above 15% kills off the yeast in the wine and fortifies it.
Now the wine is ready for herbs and spices to be added. The process or maceration takes a period of three weeks, during which the flavours are fully blended into the beverage by hand on a daily basis. Noilly Prat never shares its secret recipe for white vermouth, but it is known that chamomile, bitter orange peel, nutmeg, centaury, coriander and cloves are included in the ingredients.
It takes another six weeks of resting before the end product is ready to be bottled. The resulting dry vermouth is a pale yellow or clear coloured liquid that is ready to be drunk!
About Noilly Prat
Joseph Noilly started his business as a greengrocer in Lyons in 1801 and by 1813, was stocking a wide range of wines and spirits. That year, he designed a process that produced the very first dry vermouth from white wine. Though the Italians had been making red vermouth for some years, Noilly developed the first recipe for white vermouth.
Noilly Prat vermouth was selling well by 1843 and the family bought new premises in Marseillan to expand the business. Claude Prat, who had been with the company since 1837, married Joseph Noilly’s daughter, Anne Roisin. In 1855 the company became known as Noilly Prat, recognising Claude as a business partner.
After the death of her husband in 1859 and her father in 1865, Anne-Roisin took over the business and continued to grow it. Noilly Prat vermouth was exhibited in Paris in 1878 and achieved gold medal recognition at the Paris exhibition.
By 1911, Noilly Prat vermouth had been included in the first ever recipe for the martini cocktail. This boosted the company’s success into the twentieth century and the company developed two more varieties of vermouth. This increased their product range, meaning that they offered four different types of vermouth.
Noilly Prat still produces four types of vermouth, these being: Original Dry, Extra Dry, Rouge and Ambré. Why not give them a try with our top tips for serving?
How to Drink Noilly Prat
Noilly Prat Vermouth can be served with ice and lemon and makes a good aperitif. Serve with seafood canapes to bring out the flavours of the herbs and spices. White vermouth goes especially well with oysters, so why not serve a southern-France-inspired starter of oysters with a drop of Original Dry Noilly Prat?
The Martini revolutionised the drinking of vermouth in 1911. This simple cocktail serves dry vermouth with either gin or vodka to create a floral and aromatic beverage. You could feel like James Bond himself as you sip a martini at the Noilly Prat cocktail bar!
Here’s a Martini Recipe for you to try at home.
- 60ml vodka or gin
- 1 tablespoon dry vermouth
- olive or lemon peel, to garnish
- Stir your chosen spirit (gin or vodka) with the dry vermouth.
- Add ice and the alcoholic liquid in a cocktail shaker to combine.
- Strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass.
- Serve with a twist of lemon peel or add a touch of class with an olive on a cocktail stick.
Visit Noilly Prat on Athos
Join us on a cruise through the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France to the famous Noilly Prat Distillery, the home of French Vermouth. Meander down the historic Canal du Midi aboard Athos, mooring at the picturesque town of Marseillan on the south coast of France. Our tour of the Noilly Prat Distillery offers an opportunity to see the site and a chance to taste the famous French vermouth that is made there!