Wine is perishable: a volatile organic product that never stands still. Historically, this fact led to much experimentation with methods of stabilizing wine to extend its shelf life. One of the most effective strategies was to “fortify” wine, or boost its alcoholic strength, by adding distilled spirits. Modern winemaking technology has largely eliminated the need to stabilize wine this way, but fortified wines happen to be quite delicious and a few traditional styles are still made, including port and sherry.
However, there is another type of tasty fortified wine that is often overlooked, a category known as aperitif wines. These are not simply spiked with spirits but also flavored with herbs, spices fruits, and other botanicals. Almost every major wine region of Europe produces wines like these, the most famous of which are vermouths bittered with wormwood. Only a handful of non-vermouth aperitif wines are exported to the U.S., but the most well-known is Lillet Blanc from Bordeaux, France. First formulated by the Lillet brothers in 1872, their innovation was to spike their sémillon-based white wines with sweet liqueur rather than raw spirit to make a delicious wine-based cocktail. The secret recipe is citrus-driven with lots of orange peel but also faintly bittered with quinine, the ingredient used in tonic water. You may need to stray into the spirits aisle to find this mouthwatering golden elixir, but you’ll be getting a taste of history, whether you serve it on ice or use it in a cocktail.
Lillet Blanc Bordeaux, France
$16.99; 17% alcohol
PLCB Item #6359
Sale price through Feb. 28 — regularly $19.99
Also available at:
Hops & Grapes in Glassboro — $18.95
The Original Canal’s in Pennsauken — $19.69
Total Wine & More in Wilmington and Claymont, Del. — $19.99