I have been eyeing an intersting bottle of wine for a few months, and decided to treat myself last week. The Cappellano Barolo Chinato is an interesting digestive, similar to Italian amaro liqueuer like Ramazzotti, Averna and China Martini. The medicinal taste comes from an infusion of herbs and "china" bark (quinine). Some people think averna's taste like cough syrup - I think they're great. (Some of the Washington State liquor stores even have them, which is cool).
It turns out that this fortified wine is actually the pre-cursor to the amaro liqueuers listed above. (For more info see here) It's an interesting beast - created by Giuseppe Cappellano, a chemist who loved barolo wine and believed in its "therapeutic benefits" when drunk well aged. (As opposed to being a well-aged drunk?)
Other interesting ingredients are clove, wormwood and cinnamon. Yes, wormwood. As in absinthe. I thought wormwood was verboten nowadays, but it turns out it's used to make vermouth and many other drinks and medicines. It turns out absinthe's bad rap is largely a myth. Anyway, back to the chinato...
I opened the bottle and had a small glass after dinner, and really enjoyed it. It's definitely not as sweet and syrupy as the amaro liqueuers. The barolo wine definitely is evident - a sappy, juicy tang under the herbal and medicinal flavours. Very smooth and non-tannic. I hope it lasts well once open (being fortified, it should).
Some of you may be wondering how a young(ish) South African guy got introduced to amaro liqueuer in the first place. I have my uncle to thank for that - he lived in France for a few years, getting trained by the company providing the systems to run the Koeberg nuclear power station. During this time he managed to visit family in Italy who introduced him to China Martini. (The French family introduced him to the bridge-like card game, Tarot. But that's best saved for a future entry.)
When he came back to South Africa, he brought some China Martini with him, and got the rest of us hooked. At one point it was actually quite easy to find it available in bottle stores in South Africa (not sure about now, but it should be easier than then, if anything).