Note: My New Year’s resolution for Wine of the Week is to explore the world of “other” wines in the first week of each month. These may include fortified wines (Port, Sherry, Madeira), aromatized wines, or dessert wines. I hope you will enjoy and take the opportunity to explore more on your own.
Lillet is a wine aperitif; it belongs to a category called aromatized wine (a category that also includes vermouth and sangria). Aromatized wines have been infused with herbs, spices, roots, barks, and fruits. They are also, frequently, fortified with a spirit and possess some sweetness. Aromatization is a process that has been used since wines earliest days thousands of years ago; it was a common practice in ancient Greece and Rome. As was the case then, aromatized wines are often diluted before drinking. In the case of Lillet, it is often combined with a bit of seltzer water for an even more refreshing aperitif.
Lillet is a product of the Bordeaux region of France, and has been in production since 1872. Lillet is made by infusing a spirit with a special blend of citrus, barks and spices via cold maceration, which is pressed to create a custom fruit liqueur; this is then blended with a base wine (85% wine, 15% fruit liqueur). After fortification, the wines are aged in oak for several months to allow the flavors to meld and develop. The aged product is then blended to achieve the signature flavor and style.
The Lillet Rosé is the newest addition to the product line. It is a blend of the Blanc (based on the Semillon grape) and the Rouge (based on the Merlot grape).
Lillet, of any color, is intended to serve chilled – or better, over ice. Since this is an aromatized wine, the pronounced citrus aroma is, at least in part, attributable to the blend of citrus and aromatics used in its production. There is a pronounced aroma of pink grapefruit, white flowers and some green almond, then a detectible sweetness and a bit of heat from the increased alcohol. The sweetness translates to the flavor of candied grapefruit peels with a bitter, clean spritz of a finish.
As mentioned earlier, Lillet is often served with a bit of seltzer water. It is also quite tasty when paired with stronger spirits in cocktails. One favorite is 1 part Lillet Rosé, one part gin or vodka, one part seltzer and a couple dashes of Bittermens Burlesque Bitters (an aphrodisiac concoction we love!), served over ice with a slice of lime. You can easily omit the gin/vodka for a less potent and equally delicious aperitif.
Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to EatSomethingSexy.com.