ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently tried to take advantage of a 20 percent discount on a case of wine. I ordered a case of sweet vermouth, and was told that vermouth was not classified as wine, so the 20 percent discount did not apply. Is vermouth classified as wine? If not, what’s its classification?

—Kathy G., Leland, N.C.

Dear Kathy,

Vermouth is vermouth, at least as it is defined by U.S. labeling laws. But let me back up here—an entire case of sweet vermouth? That’s a whole lot of Manhattans and Rob Roys. Invite me over!

Vermouth is a fortified, aromatized wine, which means that it is a wine base that has spirits, herbs and spices added to it. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has defined it separately from wine as a product “compounded from grape wine.” While I understand your thinking that it might be considered wine, I also understand why the retailer doesn’t feel the same way. Then again, the retailer has a chance to sell 12 bottles of vermouth at once and refuses a discount? That seems a little short-sighted.

—Dr. Vinny


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