Joseph Noilly first developed his recipe for vermouth in 1813. The aim was to replicate the ageing process of the wine carried on board ships bound for far away destinations and exposed to natural elements. Thirty years later, from the little village of Marseillan on the Mediterranean coast, his son Louis founded a company to handle the production and marketing of his vermouth. In 1855, after his manager Claudius Prat married his daughter, the two men entered into a partnership: Noilly Prat & Compagnie was born.
Following the death of her father Louis in 1865, Claudius's widow Anne Rosine Noilly-Prat took over the running of the company. Over the following 37 years, she successfully developed the brand, especially abroad. The castles built and bought by the family testify to the success of their vermouth.
However the popularity of the Noilly Prat vermouth declined after the Second World War. In 1971 the company was taken over by its main competitor, Martini & Rossi (now Bacardi-Martini). Noilly Prat is still produced in Marseillan today, with a good share exported mainly to the US.
I should mention that originally this ghost sign was not yellow but green! Several decades of exposure to the sun have completely altered the colours.
Noilly Prat produces two varieties of vermouth: dry, which is still based on the original recipe, and red (rouge), which is exported. You can find out more about the production process for the two by visiting the wikipedia page.
Since 1986, the company also makes the Noilly Prat Ambré, which is slightly softer thanks to the addition of vanilla, cinnamon and the zest of bitter oranges.
'Dry' and 'Rouge' were written on the shield to the left of 'vermouth.' The upper left and lower right quarters were green while the upper right and lower left ones were painted red. None of the original colours remains.
Location: Rue Nationale, Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde / Pictures taken in May 2012