Review – Visciolata del Cardinale Cherry Wine
Fruit wine has in my mind at least long been relegated to the ‘only-drink-at-farmers-markets’ category of beverages. Sure, there are some tasty products out there, but somehow they rarely excite enough to make you go to the trouble of sourcing another bottle when the impulse purchase runs out. Produced using both sun-dried visciole sour cherries and cabernet sauvignon grapes which are fermented together to produce this wine in the Italian village of Serra de’ Conti, Visciolata del Cardinale is hoping to change perceptions of this niche segment of the market.
Nose: Unsurprisingly fruity, but plenty of orchard fruits in addition to the expected cherry aromas. Fresh smelling, with a lovely balance between the wine and the cherry, and just a hint of the sweet vermouth about it.
Neat: The briefest of sweet entries dries towards the finish, and although this is classified asa dessert wine the balance is such that it is very enjoyable on its own. As with the nose, the cherry flavours are incredibly fresh and complemented by other red fruits and more than a hint of apple tart. A touch of frangipan appeals to the sweet-toothed, as does a well-judged note of cherry cola. This is not an overtly sweet and fruit-dominated wine however, the wine base remains well-balanced and whispers of clove-spice and oaky-dryness make an appearance on occasion and ensure it doesn’t become one-dimensional. This really is a very enjoyable wine.
Mixing: Wine is an underused cocktail ingredient for the most part and Visciolata only serves to demonstrate that those who don’t use it regularly are missing a trick. This fruit wine mixes extraordinarily well, with the cherry somehow achieving just the right balance almost every time. In general it is best to head towards ‘shorter’ drinks such as the the New York Sour, where cherry and bourbon are quite simply a match made in heaven. You may never drink a regular Whiskey Sour again. For the adventurous, the Cardinale partners the wine with Genever and balsamic vinegar to surprising success, the acidity of the vinegar offsetting the sweetness of the wine, and again Genever and cherry get on very well indeed. Some traditional wine-based drinks such as the Claret Cobbler need a little adjustment to compensate for the extra fruitiness of this wine compared with a regular wine, but going a little easy on the Grand Marnier soon sorts out any imbalance. Whilst Visciolata makes for a decent choice in longer drinks such as the Rules Bar Sling, these don’t come quite a highly recommended simply because the subtle beauty of this wine does get a little lost. This is a unique product, and as such runs the risk of being too niche, but the fact the cherry doesn’t completely dominate proceedings makes this wine something all should try.
Signature Cocktail – Love Me
35ml Vodka, 35ml Visciolata del Cardinale, 25ml Lemon Juice, 20ml Sugar Syrup, Half an Egg White, 2 Dash Plumb Bitters
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a fresh cherry.
Visciolata del Cardinale is an extraordinarily good cherry Italian cherry wine that deserves much greater recognition. Delicious on its own, it makes for an excellent cocktail ingredient, being both versatile and characteristic in its contribution. The balance of cherry and classic wine flavours is well-judged, ensuring that it has wide appeal whilst not being shy in standing out as a cherry wine. Rating: ★★★★★
Visciolata del Cardinale is available to buy from The Whisky Exchange.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.