Saturday, 26 April 2008

Bordeaux Aperitifs – Suze

Suze is an aperitif made from the roots of the Yellow Gentian which grows in the Auvergne and is a bitter sweet drink with a subtle flavour. It was invented by the Parisian distiller Fernand Moureaux in 1889. It was in 1889 that he took the roots of Gentiana lutea for his new drink.

Gentian has been used as a tonic since ancient times - according to Pliny the Elder, Gentian takes its name from Gentius, the King of Illyria (180-168 BC) who said to have discovered its healing properties.

There are quite a few Gentian based apéritifs in France – Salers is another popular variety. This was also invented in the 19th century by Alfred Labounoux. It is made using only wild gentian roots from the volcanic slopes of the Auvernian mountains. The roots are sorted, ground and left to infuse. It is then aged in great casks made of oak from the Massif Central.

The roots of the Gentian are dug up by the inhabitants of the Auvergne mountains using a two-pronged tool nicknamed "the devil's fork". The work is long and difficult, and there are no modern processes which have made it any easier. The plant takes around 20 years to reach its adult size, and only flowers every other year. The roots are pulled from June to September, then sorted, washed, and ground while still fresh.

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Anonymous said...

Where do you buy Suze in the USA?

Sue said...

I am not sure if Suze is imported in the USA - though it definitely is in Canada. On a quick google search I did spot some restaurants and bars serving it in the states so it must be available there somewhere! I am sorry I can not help more. You could try Pernod's site as they also make the aperitif and may be able to help you.


Anonymous said...

hi i purchased Suze in Germany -the bottle leaked slightly while in my bag flying home. I don't think its the twist off cap- i think its the entire collar-of course it does not leak while up right. I'm wondering, is this a brandy or some other spirit base-(so that i don't need to worry about the product spoiling like a regular wine would.)sorry if this seems like a dumb question-i was going to give this as a gift-but only if its still "good" thanks-suzanne

Sue said...

Hi Suzanne,

Suze is based on wine and is normally around 16%. Think of it as a Chinzano, Martini or a Sherry. I don't think it would spoil like normal wine would as it is fortified with herbs. A lot of people keep an opened bottle in the fridge for some time so you should be fairly safe.

Hope this helps!


Mark said...

Hi Sue,

I'm a big fan of Suze and my US supplier stopped carrying it. I'm trying to find another source and will post back if I find one.

I have kept an opened bottle of Suze (capped of course) on the shelf, unrefrigerated, for over a year with no adverse affects on the flavor.