The following is a sort of anti-wine manifesto for wine drinkers, because maybe wine drinkers – or at least the especially passionate ones – need to be taken down a notch. Maybe we need to cool it. Especially when our “passion” plays out as a sense of superiority to our counterparts in beer and cocktails.

In theory, there would be a continual Three Stooges snob-smack among these groups, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. The beer snobs I know are proud and insightful about what beer can be, but they don’t hold up their interest as inherently better than an interest in wine. They don’t declaim beer’s greater capacity to reflect some truth about the world.

Cocktail snobs seem to have a similarly open temperament. They work with a nearly infinite palate of flavors, and sure, they’re “super into it” and so, like all driven enthusiasts they hunt down and celebrate obscure bottles; they cultivate ever finer-tuned sensitivities to provenance, freshness, ice cube size, sleeve garters, I don’t know what else. But in general cocktail people don’t ascribe to their obsession spiritual, philosophical and political value. A beautifully made cocktail is more or less a beautifully made cocktail, rather than a ticket to the empire of the immortals.

Not so with wine. We wine snobs harp on Significance. It’s not just fermented grape juice, man. It’s about farmers with dirt under their nails, it’s about culture, it touches the spiritual realm. The best beers and cocktails are the work of humans; the best wines are the reflection of God. Stuff like that.

Regardless of how we feel about one another’s categories, there doesn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of overlap in interest. Plenty of exceptions exist, but for the most part we stay with our own kind. Personally, I find myself knowing less and less about wine the more I explore it, which, ironically, kindles an ever stronger desire to explore. And so I drink as much wine, as many different wines as possible, leaving myself little time or attention for other beverages. Silly, but there it is.

However, I need to admit that regardless of how evocative and fascinating I find wine to be, its character is not infinitely variable. Wine runs up against inherent boundaries. I’m an enthusiast so subconsciously I usually deny this, acting as if wine gives me everything I need, everything there is.

It can’t, it doesn’t. And when I come up for air long enough to look above the ocean, another world awaits. It’s a world of fragrances, flavors, orientations unavailable in the wines I know, yet linked somehow to my experience so I can find a way in. This is the world of aromatized wines.

Aromatized wines are fermented grape juice infused with various botanicals, fruits, herbs, spices and roots. You know them as vermouth, and maybe you’re also familiar with americano, chinato and amaro.

Each represents a different category of aromatized wine, distinguished by the primary botanical used to affect flavor. Vermouth is based on wormwood, americano is based on gentian (a bitter root; the Italian word for embittering, amaricante, rather than the coincidence of it sounding like it’s from the U.S., is the reason for its name), chinato and quinquina are based on quinine, and then traditional vini amari use a variety of bitter bases.

Aromatized wines are used at the bar, mixed with other liquids, or a dash of vermouth can enliven a dish as you cook it, but these wines are too rarely considered interesting enough to stand on their own. The good ones, though, are precious artisanal products. And it is through their conscious, creative mingling of natural flavors that they have the potential to unite lovers of all artisanal beverages, from cocktails to craft beer and fine wine.

Wine-ist purism might lead us to think aromatized wines are some sort of perversion of the original material. Yet the history of fermented beverages, including wine, is the history of flavoring base liquids in all sorts of ways to mask off flavors, but also for preservation, digestibility and nutrition. And perhaps most crucially, the willingness of our predecessors to flavor their wines reflects a lack of hang-ups about how something is supposed to taste.

The spirit was of freedom, experiment, play; this is not lost today, but it is often forgotten.

Today’s ubiquitous cheap vermouths, sweetened with corn syrup and flavored with extracts, are an off-putting diversion. They taste artificial, cloying, inconsequential.

There is a Wizard of Oz moment to be had, though, where the house falls on the witch and the world shifts to color. Drinking high-quality, artisanal aromatized wines has that effect on me, peeling back the scales, shaking the brain, rebooting the senses.

In drinking a wine, it’s entertaining to pick up a scent of roses, a taste of tarragon, a whiff of leather, a touch of cinnamon, a burst of berry. But aromatized wines don’t just express flavors and smells; they emphasize, in a vividly immediate fashion, how flavors and smells connect.

Wine’s character is referential, its savor metaphorical rather than actual. (New Zealand sauvignon blanc might taste like pink grapefruit, but no one adds actual grapefruit to the wine.) By integrating wine’s referentiality with actual flavors from the material world (Cardamaro tastes vegetal because cardoons were added), aromatized wines link the metaphors we concoct with the world we inhabit.

Take a sip. Dolin Dry ($14), or Contratto Americano Rosso ($32) or La Quintinye Royal Rouge ($24), or the gentian-quinine aperitif Bonal ($19), or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino ($20) or the beyond-category Elisir Novasalus amaro ($22), to name a few of the wines I’ve welcomed into my life recently, all open doors to entirely strange, beautiful, new worlds. They show interactions of bitter, sweet, floral, malty, sour, sharp, velvety, salty. Were you to encounter these interactions in a conventional still wine, you would swear it was the most complex you’d ever tasted.

You can use these wines to make incredible Manhattans, rob roys and martinis. You can pour one over a couple of cubes when you get home from work. You can serve them in small, curvy glasses as a digestive after a rich meal. But to enjoy their full potential, drink with food. At 16 or 17 percent alcohol, they bear restraint, but not too much.

The clear dry French vermouths are terrific with fresh cheeses, pesto, smoked fish, clams. Reds, marrying sweet to bitter along with a toastier character and more viscosity, work well with fats and proteins (salmon! pork!), and richly spiced dishes. A recent meal of a tamarind-based Indian masala with red vermouth was one of my favorite what-the-hell-let’s-see-what-happens home pairings in a long time.

Vermouth di Torino, combining cocoa, citrus and rhubarb, makes a killer Negroni, but chilled straight alongside salami and olives it’s a wonder.

The food pairings are forgiving. Start with something clear and dry, flavoring your food with herbs. Then go to something dark and bitter with meat or stinky cheese. Indonesian and Malaysian foods, and curries of all sorts, sing with the reds and ambers.

There is so much going on in aromatized wines that something in your drink is bound to communicate with something in your food. And if it doesn’t, you just made yourself a terrific homespun cocktail and now you can crack a beer.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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