Dubonnet is a French wine-based aperitif. It was developed by Joseph Dubonnet in 1846. It is made from the juice of five different grape varieties. The fermentation has been prevented by the addition of neutral alcohol. The juice has been matured in oak barrels for 3-4 years, during maturation various herbs and spices have been added, e.g. quinine. Prior to bottling, it is cooled to near freezing and cold filtered to obtain a uniform color. Dubonnet has initially been 18% strong, but has been dropped over the years to accommodate the audience’s taste. Today, it is sold in Europe at a strength of 14.8%.
The aroma has grape juice, ripe fruit, a little spicy. The taste is sweet, grape juicy and slightly spicy. After the sweetness of the beginning, it becomes more bitter, the aftertaste is already rather dry and slightly bitter. Quinine and other spices are very lightly displayed. The taste of the grapes dominates. The taste is quite similar to ruby-class port wines, where the juiciness of the grape is strongly displayed. However, compared to cheaper port wines, Dubonnet is clearly more mature. However, the spiciness is perhaps too light and non-existent. When this is sold as an aperitif, I would like it to taste stronger. As with the previously reviewed Lillet Rouge, grape juice is too dominant and there are too few other spices to offer. I think that at least the bitterness of quinine has been greatly reduced over the years to make the drink suitable for a larger audience. There is so little bitterness and spiciness in the current recipe, so instead of aperitif wines I could call Dubonnet more like sweet and lightly spiced red wine.