Venturing Vermentino

Open up your repertoire with an alternative spring white


As the weather warms up I know we'll all be reaching for more white wines. The question, of course, is which whites will those be? Are we all going to be predictable and reach for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the occasional oddball, or is it time to begin to think outside the box?
 
If we take our cue from producers worldwide, we might want to begin thinking a bit more about Vermentino. I recently sampled Vermentino from Oregon, North Carolina, Australia and Lodi, California, as well as Liguria, Sardinia and Tuscany, where the wines are more typically produced.
 
That’s a wide expanse, but Vermentino is well-suited to being produced globally, being a vine that tends towards good vigor, even in times when the season is less than ideal. The grape tends to ripen in mid-season, retaining considerable acidity (modest acidity even when grown in warmer climates) and displaying trademark citrus flavors and aromas in a medium-bodied style that work wonderfully at revealing terroir.

White wine image via shutterstock

Vermentino

The marriage of precise citrus flavors and the ability to reveal great minerality is what sets Vermentino apart from many other varieties. But at the same time one should keep in mind that this is a relatively simple wine—and by no means am I saying that simple means bad. Chilled and set as a foil for chilled seafood, for example, Vermentino can really excel at the dinner table; and it’s an easy drinking and refreshing option for just sipping on the patio as the sun goes down. Too much of our time is spent searching out life-changing wine experiences. Our lives would change much more, and for the better, if we just enjoyed the little spark of happiness a lovely wine can add to an ordinary evening.

As with most grapes, when it comes to Vermentino, one must tackle both the producer learning curve and the effects of terroir. It’s refreshing to see winemakers not trying to force Vermentino to be something it’s not, though there have been missteps in the past. Lightness is the nature of the variety, and while some producers still manage to extract as much as possible from the grape, obscuring the wine’s innate detail, a global consensus seems to be forming, a consensus that Vermentino should be light and fresh, perhaps a bit salty in some places, more floral in others, but always snappy and focused. Here are five to watch. 

 

2011 Troon Vineyard Vermentino Foundation '72 Applegate Valley OR 12% $16

Apple blossoms, pressed flowers and a touch of quince greet the nose. Bright yet well-rounded with polished edges in the mouth, this shows off the quince of the nose layered upon apple and vaguely herbal flavors on the palate. There's nice focus and a mineral snap to this on the back end, which leads to a juicy fig-tinged citrusy finish that ends with some pith and pebbles notes. This is pretty good stuff. 88 points

 

2010 Uvaggio Vermentino Lodi, Ca 12% $15

Rather lightly aromatic with nice notes of lemon, a touch of peach and then big chalky and mint top notes. Bright on entry, this is rather small-scaled in the mouth but shows nice depth of flavor. Fruit-driven in the Vermentino way, which is to say not terribly, and showing as much mineral and suggestions of fine herbs over pineapple and green melon fruit. Rather refined and finishing with excellent length and a hint of white flowers and camphor in the mouth. Classy. 88 points

 

2011 Colle Dei Bardellini Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente 11.5% $15

A touch rubbery on the nose, with a classic hint of pencil eraser that I associate with Pigato. Hints of herbs, and slightly smoked fruits, lemons and pineapple add some complexity to the nose. In the mouth, there is an earthy minerality under rather rich fruit, with hints at grapefruit pith and under-ripe pineapple fruit. Pigato is often referred to as Vermentino in wine circles, but the wines do show a character that is different than most Vermentino. At best it may be a specific clone of Vermentino, but is best considered as a distinct wine. 88 points

 

2011 Nuraghe Crabioni Vermentino di Sardegna 11% $16

Earth and mineral on the nose, with notes of dried brush and fennel framing bright lemon-driven aromas. On the palate this is bright, nervy and well-balanced, with a touch of late arriving richness adding some depth and helping to buffer the bracing acidity. That richness carries onto the finish, which shows a hint of ripe tropical fruit paired with a classic touch of nuttiness. 87 points

 

2011 Yalumba The Y Series Vermentino South Australia 11.5% $11

Dusty and a touch yeasty on the nose, with a light, rubbery edge and hints of sweet red fruits accenting the core of baked yellow fruit topped with a twist of lime. Bright and juicy on entry, this lacks a touch of body on the mid-palate, leaving a hint of hollowness before the mineral-inflected lemon and light peachy flavors take over on the back end. There’s a little tutti frutti quality here, though the finish does show a nice suggestion of herb along with more baked yellow fruit flavors that turn rather pineapple-y. Just a little raw in the mouth. 84 points

 
 

2011 Raffaldini Vineyards Vermentino Swan Creek NC 13.3% $17

A touch sweet on the nose but with bright lemony fruit over a dusty, earthy hint of camphor. This is a bit soft in the mouth, with indistinct flavors of minerals, camphor and citrus pith. Lean and a bit spicy and firmly mineral on the finish, which does show good length. This wine lacks a mid-palate but shows promise both on the nose and the finish. 83 points

 
Slideshow View

Spring Whites: Vermentino

1.
Troon Vineyard Vermentino Foundation Applegate Valley Or (1972)
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2.
Uvaggio Vermentino Lodi (2010)
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3.
Colle Dei Bardellini Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente (2011)
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4.
Nuraghe Crabioni Vermentino di Sardegna (2011)
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5.
Yalumba Vermentino Langhorne Creek Y Series (2011)
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6.
Raffaldini Vineyards Vermentino (2011)
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Comments

  • Snooth User: Mark Suss
    951226 137

    Came across the Uvaggio last summer and it was delicious. Great intro to the grape.

    Apr 02, 2013 at 4:15 PM


  • Snooth User: sing4you
    316848 1

    I'm a little confused. I've registered with my Texas zip code, but when I click the link to find a particular wine, I'm given stores in New Jersey. That's a bit of a schlep, I think.

    Apr 03, 2013 at 10:10 AM


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