Straw-coloured Noilly Prat is named after Joseph Noilly, the herblist who invented this ‘Rolls Royce of Vermouths’ in Marseillan in 1813, just a few years before Vermouth de Chambéry—and 50 years before Martini invented their own Vermouth.
The Noilly Prat process is unusual. First dry white wine made from the local Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette grapes is aged for eight months in enormous oak casks from Canada. Then the wine is transferred into smaller barrels and moved into the sun and cold for a year, where up to 8% is lost as the ‘angels’ share’.
The casks are then brought inside and topped up with mistelle along with a dash of fruit essence. Then over the course of the next three weeks, a secret mix of herbs and spices is added to the casks by hand (the dodinage). After macerating for another six weeks, the Noilly Prat is bottled.
In 1971 Martini purchased Noilly Prat; you can take the distillery tour in Marseillan from March to November.
Images by Clément Bucco-Lechat, The original uploader was ByB at French Wikipedia.