Some call it an Aperitif. Others refer to it as an Aperitivo. An aperitif or aperitivo is an alcoholic beverage, typically served before a meal, with the purpose of stimulating the appetite. It is often enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink to awaken the taste buds, cleanse the palate and prepare the stomach for the meal to come.
Aperitifs are a significant part of many cultures, especially in European countries like Italy, France, Spain and Greece, where the ritual of enjoying an aperitif before a meal is deeply ingrained in the social and culinary traditions. They serve as a delightful way to relax, socialize, and set the mood for a pleasant dining experience.
A typical aperitif/aperitivo involves a variety of drinks, such as Aperol, Campari, or other classic spirits, often mixed with soda water, tonic, Prosecco and/or other herbal or bittersweet liqueurs. These drinks may be on the rocks, neat, or mixed and served alongside a selection of small bites such as olives, bruschetta and crostini, cheese, cured meats, vegetables, dips and spreads and other appetizers that showcase the flavors of the region.
The Mediterranean Aperitivo
While each country has their specific way of engaging in this cultural tradition, there is also the Mediterranean Aperitivo. Naturally, the quintessential Mediterranean Aperitivo embodies the flavors, ingredients and characteristics of the Mediterranean region or countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, Greece, Spain, France, and others. The European Union designed a campaign to raise awareness and promote the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) of Vermouth di Torino, the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of Pecorino Toscano, the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) of Costa d’Amalfi Lemons and Olives from Greece.
The European Union’s Mediterranean Aperitivo campaign unites the two Mediterranean countries, Italy and Greece, in an endeavor to protect and disseminate knowledge of these products and their territories by providing useful elements to recognize their excellence. According to the EU, “a key role is also played by man and human creativity, which can help vitalize and drive the economy. This involves “acting in a socially and culturally responsible way towards a priceless heritage that is not just European, but belongs to the entire world.” The products in the Mediterranean Aperitivo truly exemplifies European quality.
Vermouth di Torino (PGI), which comes from the region of Piedmont, is an Italian fortified wine that is classified according to its color (white, amber, rose or red). The products can be extra dry, dry or sweet and both types are used in various cocktails such as Martinis and Negronis. The production of Vermouth is safeguarded and guaranteed by the Consortium of Vermouth di Torino (PGI), which adheres to specific rules and regulations to ensure its quality.
Pecorino Toscano (PDO) is a soft or semi-hard cheese made from sheep’s milk. The cheese can be fresh or matured. The Consortium for Protection of Pecorino Toscano (PDO) was created to ensure quality in the production of Tuscan Pecorino.
Produced in the region of Campania, the Costa d’Amalfi Lemon (PGI) has intense citrus aromas, sweet, juicy pulp and almost no seeds. The lemon peel and zest has proved to be very suitable for cocktails and the aromatization of spirits. Lastly, Amalfi lemons are also known as sfusato, Italian for ‘spindle’, likely due to the elongated shape of the lemons. The OP Costieragrumi De Riso, which represents the Costa d’Amalfi (PGI) Lemon is an organization that was established to support lemon producers by providing assistance with phytosanitary certification and establishing product specification.
Greek Olives-need we say more? Greek Olives are recognized globally for their quality. Olive cultivation in Greece contributes immensely to sustainability and biodiversity. The cultivation of olives not only provides employment, but it also helps to avoid soil erosion and offers shelter, food and protection to many birds and animals. The Agri-food Partnership of the Region of Western Greece works to support local communities by increasing the added value of the products and promoting traditional farming and quality agricultural products in national and international markets.
While I am not new to the aperitivo and have engaged in a few different cultural traditions, I had a wonderful Wining Hour opportunity to experience the quintessential Mediterranean Aperitivo in Greece. During the EU’s recent campaign in collaboration with the Agri-food Partnership of the Region of Western Greece, I spent some time in Greece and had a delightful time exploring Vermouth di Torino, Tuscan Pecorino, Amalfi Lemons and Greek Olives.
One dinner, in particular, at Bodegas Restaurant and Wine Bar in Patras, provided a fine opportunity to delve into all of these Mediterranean delights during the aperitivo. This was followed by an in-depth tasting of Vermouth di Torino and then a decadent dinner. These particular flavors proved to be a great combination and facilitated a great time!
Ultimately, the Mediterranean Aperitivo is not just about the food and drinks; it’s about embracing the relaxed and convivial lifestyle that is characteristic of Mediterranean culture. It celebrates the abundance of fresh, flavorful regional ingredients and the joy of leisurely sharing a meal with friends and family. Be sure to celebrate life and enjoy the Mediterranean Aperitivo