Matteo Danisi, Assistant Manager of Jeroboams Elizabeth Street, tells us about the joys of a recent trip to Cocchi in Asti, where he discovered the unbounded pleasures of aromatised wines.
If you happen to find yourself thirsty in the beautiful northern Italian region of Piedmonte, there’s no better place to imbibe in a cocktail than the famous Cocchi Bar, situated in the busy Piazza Alfieri in Asti. “Il Cocchi,” as the Piedmontese call it, is a real landmark of the city and a relatively simple place founded on the simple pleasures that pepper everyday life in Italy. Here, the world moves to the gentle rhythm of an aperitif after a long day at work, loaded with the spirits Cocchi have are known for.
Cocchi was founded by Giulio Cocchi in 1891, and very quickly became a regional icon because of the characterful aromatised wines they produced. These are wines produced from local indigenous grape varieties that are then cooked with various botanicals. In the case of the famed Vermouth di Torino, it is Artemisia absinthium, Arancio Amaro and Rabarbaro, also known as Chinese rhubarb. They lend the spirit a deep, earthy richness and bitterness characteristic of vermouth itself. This is the original recipe that led Piedmonte to become the Kingdom of Vermouth. As is so often the case in Italian culture, if something has been working for generations, why change it?
Their approach to simple pleasure is best found in Cocchi Americano. This is a white wine aromatised with bitter herbs and spices – “amaricato” meaning bitter – that is so named because of the American habit of drinking it with ice and soda. With a clean, bright and assertive flavour, it turns into a beautiful aperitif with the addition of ice and sparkling wine from Asti – known as The Spritz Americano Royale. It is distinctive in flavour and branding: since the 1930s, each bottle features a futuristic rooster on the label, presumably crying out for a drink!
These are wines that seamlessly fit into their surroundings. Try with Gorgonzola, salami and hazelnuts grown locally, and you are in for a treat. Combine with chocolate, and you are in heaven.
And this perfectly sums up the attitude of Cocchi: simple but perfect. This also sums up my visit to Cocchi, which was orientated about not only giving us an insight into the history and production of these historic and famous wines, but more so demonstrating about pleasure is knitted into the Piedmontese landscape.
Stay simple, stay authentic!