In his presentation at last month's WineFuture conference in Hong Kong, British wine writer Steven Spurrier was asked to nominate the grape variety of the future and chose the Italian light-skinned Vermentino.
While I have never had a truly great, long-aged example, I can quite see the appeal of young Vermentinos, virtually all of which exhibit the racy, citrus, often mineral and sometimes marine character of refreshing dry wine, usually unoaked and moderate in alcohol. This is a quintessentially Mediterranean grape variety, retaining its acidity well even in relatively warm regions. It is the dominant white wine grape of Sardinia and Corsica and generally straddles France and Italy, as witness all these synonyms:
Favorita, Furmentin, Malvasia or Malvoisie de Corse, Malvoisie à Gros Grains, Malvoisie du Douro, Pigato, Rolle, Sapaiola, Verlantin or Varlantin, Verlentin or Varlentin, Vermentino di Gallura and Vermentinu. (For long the Ligurians maintained that Pigato was distinct from Vermentino, but DNA evidence suggests otherwise. It is a similar tale for the Piemontese grape Favorita, athough of course grape varieties can adapt to local conditions in different ways.)
Some think that, like other grape varieties, Vermentino originally made its way to the Mediterranean islands from Spain, but there is currently no evidence of ancient Vermentino growing in Iberia.
Called Vermentino or Rolle, the variety is widely grown through southern France, where it can produce much livelier wines than some of those made from fuller-bodied varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Viognier.
I'd like to draw UK residents' attention to a particular Vermentino bargain from the Languedoc that is currently available at Waitrose, Laurent Miquel, L'Atelier Vermentino 2010 IGP Pays d'Oc. Its 'regular' price is £9.99 but it is reduced to the much more reasonable £6.66 until 3 January and I can certainly recommend it at the reduced price. It has clearly been popular – I see it is out of stock on the Waitrose website – but I am assured that it is available in the stores.
Waitrose's background notes on this wine are rather anodyne but at least attest to its bone dryness: 100% Vermentino from very stony soils in the Languedoc with a hot and dry Mediterranean climate. The vines are 11 years old, short pruned and harvested by machine at night in late September with an average yield of 70 hl/ha. The grapes were gently pressed then fermented with selected yeast for four weeks in stainless-steel tanks at a cool 14-16 °C. No malolactic and matured for six to eight months in stainless-steel tanks. Winemaker Laurent Miquel. Bentonite fined. TA 3.45 g/l, pH 3.57, RS 0.26 g/l.
I found the wine bursting with fresh fruit and attractively mouthfilling while being quite refreshing enough to serve as an aperitif or house white. But I'd definitely drink rather than keep it. Alcohol is just 12.5%.
Purple pagers can use our Tasting notes search to put Vermentino in the general search box to find a wide array of Vermentinos from round the world, literally from Virginia to Victoria.