Today we are looking at White Vermentino.
The origins of Vermentino Bianco are disputed. Some documentation claims it comes from the Iberian Peninsula (between modern day Spain and Portugal), spread to the island of Corsica and then on to Italy. While other sources document its introduction in Marseille, France by Greek winemakers and navigators and then arrived along the Ligurian coast of Italy.
Its presence in the upper Tyrrhenian Sea dates back to 1800.
It is of interest to note that the existence of the Black Vermentino varietal, widespread in the northern provinces of Tuscany bordering Liguria, has no genetic relationship with the more known and widespread White Vermentino which we are discussing today.
White Vermentino adapts well to a temperate, dry climate and to different soils, thus giving rise to wines with transversal aromatic profiles.
The different names with which its wine is recognized in different cultivation areas are interesting: Favorita in Piedmont, Rolle in Provence and Malvoisie in Corsica; though all are of the same grape variety, they generate wines with different tasting profiles, justifying the remarkable versatility of the varietal by virtue of the cultivation areas. This proves to be a delight for agronomists and oenologists!
As for the aromatic profile, it is generally considered a varietal with a neutral aroma, but it is also true that the grape contains characteristic aromatic precursors, expressed with floral elements reminiscent of white flowers and wildflowers, especially Jasmine, and other aromas determined by the environment and winemaking. So much so that during tastings, I almost consider Vermentino to be a cousin of the more marked Sauvignon Blanc and others in terms of aromas.
Vermentino is characterized by the notes of fresh yellow fruit such as Golden apple and melon, to which are added notes of: citrus fruits such as lime and grapefruit (if it undergoes pre fermentative hyperoxidation); balsamic and spicy aromas (if it undergoes cold cryomaceration with whole grape bunches); scents of iodine (if it undergoes a pre fermentation hyper-reduction); or kerosene if the grapes are "burned" (grapes grown in particularly sunny areas) or if the wine is aged. These are the olfactory traits of White Vermentino; essentially a semi-aromatic grape.
There is more: Vermentino is a varietal and a wine that stands out and differs from other whites with typically "marine" or iodine aromatic notes mainly due to the geographical area in which it is most cultivated, along the coasts of Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany, and to a lesser extent Lazio, Apulia and Sicily.
Sardinian Vermentino aromas
Certainly Sardinia represents the pinnacle considering the double denomination Vermentino di Sardegna DOC (Sardinian Vermentino DOC) and Vermentino di Gallura DOCG (Vermentino from Gallura DOCG). Precisely in the latter area, the soils are of granite and sandy surface, beaten by the salty wind in the dry climate; the wines produced here are refined and harmonious. The aromatic expression evokes notes of aromatic herbs, such as sage and rosemary, acacia flowers and Mediterranean scrub, ripe apricot and fresh almond; as the wine evolves over time, the exotic fruitiness develops with passion fruit and banana, honey and kerosene.
Ligurian Vermentino aromas
The Ligurian wine has two versions: in the West, the wine has a more vertical aromatic profile due to the calcareous terrain, and in the Levante region, the wine has a rounder profile due to the clay soils. Typical aromas found in Ligurian Vermentino include mimosa, musk, thyme, lemon peel, Williams pear, Rennet apple, lavender, tomato leaf, medlar, magnolia, orange blossom, apricot, cedar, mandarin, papaya and flint.
Tuscan Vermentino aromas
The Tuscan "Maremma", with its denominations, produces pleasant and fragrant versions. These wines are fine and subtle, with notes of wisteria, elderflower and lemon balm, Annurca apple and Kaiser pear, nectarine, peach and bergamot.
Vermentino outside of Italy
Outside of Italy, Vermentino is widely grown in France (Corsica and Provence), the United States (California and Oregon), Australia and New Zealand. In some of these regions the varietal expresses wines of great elegance.
My final thoughts concern the commercial success of this wine which until today was linked almost entirely to summer tourism in Italy. This is now changing as Vermentino is becoming more complex and rich also thanks to being aged in wood or cement that widens the aromatic spectrum.
- Luisito Perazzo