Vermentino has been going from strength to strength over the last few decades. From relative obscurity, it is now the star white grape of Italy’s Tuscan and Ligurian coast, not to mention its iconic status on the island of Sardinia. It thrives on Corsica too, and it’s even challenging the status quo in Provence, where it goes by the name of Rolle.
Sardinia, nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, is generally considered to be Vermentino’s spiritual home. Here it appears strongly in the consistently good Vermentino di Gallura DOCG, produced in a large area of the north of the island. Long, hot summers are offset by cooling sea breezes, while winters are moderate. The result is the development of intriguing aromatic profiles, for which Vermentino is famous.
The grape itself is naturally high in acidity, the principle characteristic behind Vermentino’s growing reputation as a fresh, mineral influenced wine. Resistant to drought, it prefers poor, infertile soils. The rocky coastal hills of Sardinia seem to offer ideal growing conditions.
Liguria too offers similar conditions. Here the slopes rise quickly from sea level, offering ample exposure and long ripening seasons. Vermentino features in the regions DOC wines of Riviera Ligure di Ponente and Colli di Luni.
Vermentino is generally made in two different styles. The lighter, fresher, zestiest style is complimented by a richer, creamier fuller bodied wine that typically sees some wood during and after fermentation.
Tuscan Vermentino, further south of La Spezia on the Italian mainland is also growing in commercial appeal. The recent expansion of red wine appellations such has Bolgheri has seen a host of top names seeking to build sustainable businesses here. More often than not these estates need a white wine to pad out the portfolio. Fortunately, the wines are often excellent. Vermentino benefits from similar climatic conditions.
Controversially, there an ongoing debate over Vermentino’s correct synonyms. DNA testing has revealed the grape to be identical to Pigato, a variety long planted in Liguria; awkwardly though, growers continue to dispute the scientific assertions as, yet in the vineyard, and indeed in the glass, the wines rarely resemble each other. The debate rages to such a point that some growers such as Terre Bianche bottle mono-varietal expressions of both Vermentino and Pigato.