Instead of busting out the Campari for your next at-home Negroni, why not look a bit closer to home?
Created by Central Otago’s Terra Sancta winery, Aperitivo Botanical is a delicious wine-based aperitif made with an aromatic mix of 16 locally grown herbs and spices.
The “secret blend” mixes the sweetness of fresh red berries with herbal notes of thyme, sage and wormwood. You’ll taste the slight spiciness of horopito peppers and tanginess from citrus – and the finish has that characteristic bitterness that makes for an excellent pre-meal drink.
Switch in the vibrant drop for a not-Aperol Spritz, splash it into a gin and tonic, or have it on the rocks with a dash of soda water.
Terra Sancta owners Mark Weldon and Sarah Eliott founded their winery in 2011. They own four vineyards in the Bannockburn area (and claim to have planted the subregion’s first vines in 1991), and their wines are widely acclaimed. Central Otago is famous for its wine and produce, thanks to a distinct climate that includes low rainfall, some of the country’s hottest temperatures in summer and its coldest in the winter.
Aperitivo Botanical’s story began in 2017, when Eliott undertook a local herbalism course. “I did a course with Isla Burgess. She’s amazing – she’s been involved with herbal medicine for 50 years and grows her own herbs,” Eliott tells Broadsheet. “She has incredible knowledge and does these courses from her botanical workshop.”
Over a two-year period, Eliott went along with several other women and learned extensively about the properties of herbs, discovering that many grow wild in the Central Otago area. This sparked the idea that it might be possible to make a botanical tipple from what was growing in the region – and so ensued another two years of trial and error to find the perfect blend.
Each botanical extraction is prepared by the team from scratch. This involves collecting the herbs between March and May (during the wine grape harvest) from several locations – the vineyard itself, the banks of the Kawarau River and the surrounding area. The ingredients are then dried, extracted and blended with a pinot gris base. Its sunset-blush colour is also 100 per cent natural (which might be more than we can say for some of the more mainstream aperitifs).
“It was quite the process, with lots of stopping and starting – wine really is quite easy by comparison!” says Eliott. “While it definitely has similarities to the flavour of Campari, I sometimes feel like it’s a bit of a crossover of an Italian aperitivo and a Mexican tequila.”
Even the label is delightful: an artistic depiction of some of the area’s key landmarks, flora and fauna, including the Kawarau River, grapes, sprigs of rosemary and thyme, elderberries, wildflowers and bees. Summer in a glass.