Even if you’ve shaken a Martini, downed a Negroni or drunk a Manhattan, you might not have given much thought to one of the key ingredients in these cocktails. That’s because vermouth is mostly used to build a drink, rather than star alone.
Unico Zelo, a creative winemaking venture headed up by Brendan and Laura Carter and based in the northern Adelaide Hills, wants to change that. It’s released a sweet vermouth made with yuzu (a citrus originally from Japan but sourced from Mountain Yuzu in Victoria) and nebbiolo wine that’s been matured for 12 months. Limited to 1200 bottles and produced in collaboration with Applewood Distillery, Unico Yuzu is great over ice or with a slash of soda.
“The flavours just seemed to work so well together,” Laura Carter tells Broadsheet of the unorthodox mix. “[It’s] a really fun project; a way to contribute something new and fun to the wine and spirits arena. We had leftover native botanicals from making our sister product – Økar Australian Amaro – and wanted to make further use of those unique flavours.”
Everything the couple produces, from wine to amaro to gin, has been created to reflect its local origins and to actually taste like Australia. That means using native ingredients and supporting sustainable practices that minimally draw on natural resources and which suit our landscape and climate.
Aside from the vermouth, Unico Zelo focuses on two varieties of wine. Both Fiano and Nero d’Avola succeed well in dry, arid climates – perfect for the Riverland region of South Australia, where Unico Zelo’s grape suppliers are located.
“It's arguably the most unsustainable place to grow grapes in the world,” says Brendan. “If we can prove you can sustainably grow grapes there it sets an incredible precedent to a global audience: that Australian wine is a reflection of one of the most ancient and extreme soils and climates in the world.”
Unico Zelo has also just released its new orange (skin contact) wine, Esoterico (you can get it here). Its range of limited-edition Australian-botanical gins – Pepperberry, Wattleseed, Garden Gin (in collaboration with Royal Mail), and Rosella and Winter Gin (in collaboration with Inglewood Inn) – will be released throughout 2019.
Unico Yuzu Sweet Vermouth is available on the Unico Zelo website while stocks last.