Tuesday, May 26, 2015

White Wine Grapes, Part 2: Vermentino

Two weeks ago we tasted two whites from Montauto of Tuscany.  While both were good examples of the white blends we're writing about here, the lower priced wine was the more popular of the two. Vermentino was part of the blend in each, but in the tasting winner it was a full eighty percent of the blend and my experience validates our tasting group's verdict: Vermentino-based blends rock!  I just have to wonder how popular the wine would be if it had a less unfortunate name.

Tuscany, especially along the Ligurian coastline, is one of the classic venues for Vermentino vineyards.  Sardinia would be another and the Cotes de Provence of France, a third.  The Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, however, is the place to watch for new Vermentino blends since that's where plantings are increasing the most now.  In Tuscany the grape is called Pigato; in France, Rolle; and wherever it's planted in Spain, it's called Favorita.  In my opinion, any of these monikers would do better in the American marketplace than Vermentino.

Ampelographers are divided as to the origins of Vermentino.  Some say Spain; others, Italy.  There is also some uncertainty as to whether it's related to its frequent blending partner, Malvasia.  It definitely shares some DNA with Hungarian Furmint.

Vermentino is typically light-to-medium in body with bright, crisp acidity extending to the finish.  It is low in alcohol and has just a tinge of greenish-yellow color.  What it really brings to any white wine blend is an aroma of basil, pine nuts and minerality and flavors of green apples, limes, and herbs.  In other words, the wine has an intense and persistent personality all the way to the finish.

In California, Vermentino is successfully grown by Tablas Creek amongst others in Paso Robles AVA.  Bailiwick of Sonoma also makes a Vermentino featuring juice sourced from Paso Robles and the Red Hills of Lake County.  That one is in the store at this time and compares with European wines if just a bit fruitier and bigger in the mouth.  Like all Vermentinos, Bailiwick is seafood wine but also like most superior California wines, it stands on its own as a cocktail.

This Friday at the After 5 weekly event David Hobbs of Prime Wines presents a lineup of European reds and whites.  On the 5th of June Dean Johnston of Eagle Rock returns with new selections from that great company and then on the 12th, Rose Adams representing Aveleda of Portugal, shows us all what summer wines should taste like!  Please join us.  

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