What is Vermentino?
Australian Vermentino is going from strength to strength with an increasing stream of impressive wines being produced by winemakers across the country. To help us learn more about this vibrant new style, we reached out to a few Vermentino experts with winemakers from Box Grove Vineyard, The Little Wine Co, and Chalk Hill Wines .
While its origins might be disputed, there’s no argument over Vermentino’s refreshing appeal. Slowly but surely the ‘new wave’, ‘alternative’ or should we say ‘new Australian’ grape variety movement is stitching itself into our wine psyche.
More and more wineries are adding these varieties to their portfolio as we, the wine loving public, continue to seek out these delicious and exciting wines. Vermentino is one of the most popular of these varieties and is quickly filling the glasses of Pinot G and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers.
Vermentino hails from Italy’s Liguria region and the Mediterranean Islands of Sardinia and Corsica. With its light to medium body, Vermentino has a similar weight and profile to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. Styles range from light and fresh to rich and textural. On the palate there are notes of lime, almond, green apple, white florals, a unique sense of sea spray, and refreshing acidity perfect for the Australian summer.
An infographic guide of Vermentino wine
Vermentino is famously grown on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Vermentino is of similar weight to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling.
Vermentino pairs with rich and tomato based dishes for the full texture.
Vermentino can cellar for up to 2 years.
Vermentino is a mid-weight wine.
Fun fact: In France, Vermentino is known as Rolle.
Origins of Vermentino
Italy is the spiritual home of Vermentino, however, many refer to it as a Mediterranean variety, with a lot of truth. There is speculation as to where the variety originated, with the Italians, French and even Spanish suggesting it is their gift to the wine world.
It is found in Provence and other southern French regions and it is the major white variety on the island of Corsica. In Italy, Vermentino is found in Liguria and Piedmont in the north, Tuscany in the centre and excels on the island of Sardinia.
Vermentino in Australia
McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean-style climate and proximity to the coast are perfectly suited to Vermentino, as it is remarkably similar to the environment around Liguria, the original home of this variety. However, as a very hardy variety, it has adopted well across a variety of regions such as the Hunter Valley , Central Victoria and the Australian home of Italian varietals , the King Valley . All of these different growing conditions, from warmer to moderate, encourage differing styles from light and fresh to rich and textural.
Production of Australian Vermentino is increasing each year, due in no small part to the demand for alternate varieties across the country. According to Box Grove Vineyard winemaker, Sarah Gough, Vermentino's “charm lies in its delicate, briney nose and long, fresh palate. It doesn't need oak to enhance these flavours or fill out any weight on the palate. It can be made in March, and bottled in late spring the same year and enjoyed over the long summer months.”
Here at home, Vermentino was one of the first ‘new wave’ grape varieties to gain traction with grape growers and winemakers.
Its ability to thrive in hot and dry climates makes it perfectly suited to many of our wine growing regions. This attribute has been put to the test over the past few drought influenced years that Australia has weathered.
The fact that it ripens slowly and ripens late is another ace up its sleeve in the fight against warmer and earlier vintages.
McLaren Vale has excelled with Vermentino, but keep an eye out for examples from across the country.
As a late ripening variety with long and loose bunches, Vermentino can be confusing to Australian winemakers at first. Little Wine Co. winemaker Suzanne Little, whose 2016 vintage won the Best Alternative White trophy at the Hunter Valley Wine Show, states that as Vermentino is a “more textural, complex style, it needs to be allowed to ripen – given it is already a late-ripening style, it takes a little nerve to let it stay out there when all of the whites and most of the reds have already been picked.”
Chalk Hill winemaker Renae Hirsch remembers her conundrum with their 2016 harvest, as their crop "had good flavour, but it was still looking a little austere with fairly high acid levels, but I made the call to harvest as there was a spell of hot weather forecast for the following week and I didn't want to lose the vibrancy in the fruit from letting it hang out there in the heat, so I booked it in to harvest.” That vintage won the 2016 International Judges Wine of Show at the McLaren Vale Wine Show.
The key characters of Vermentino are stone fruit, citrus peel, dried herbs and a signature saline or sea spray character.The variety is high in acidity so the wines all have a refreshing and nervy acid backbone. They can be made in a number of styles.
The lighter aromatic styles made by gentle pressing and a cool fermentation highlight the variety’s fruit and acidity. Perhaps the most exciting development has been the willingness of Australian winemakers to experiment and embrace practices such as skin contact, natural fermentation and old oak to not only craft wines of fruit power and brightness, but also to harness Vermentino’s textural intrigue.
Facts on Vermentino
Vermentino can be found under many different names and guises. Most probably due to the squabbling over the grape’s historical roots.
The French use the name Rolle, however the use of Vermentino is becoming more popular. The Italian region of Liguria calls it Pigato, while in Piedmont it is referred to as Favorita.
Vermentino Food Pairing
Hailing from the Mediterranean, it makes perfect sense that Vermentino is a natural pairing for all types of seafood. One of the classics matches is with sardines.
Vermentino is a very food friendly wine, matching perfectly with the diverse range of fresh seafood, salads and light Asian-inspired dishes, popular during the long Australian summer. Luke Nguyen's chilli salted squid recipe is a fantastic match as the sweetness and spice from the squid balance the refreshing acidity of Australian Vermentino. Suzanne Little from the Little Wine Company notes that their style of Vermentino also pairs very well with prawn dumpling dishes , owing in part to the notes of sea spray common to this variety. Asian Inspirations have a great guide on how to make your own dumplings you might like to match with Vermentino.
Owing to its Mediterranean roots, a myriad of classic Italian, Maltese and Sicilian dishes excel. Guy Grossi’s Carciofi alla Romana recipe is a perfect accompaniment to the similarly Italian style of a McLaren Vale Vermentino.
It’s safe to say that Australian Vermentino won’t stay a hidden secret for too long, as the consistently superb standard of these wines is remarkable, as is the increasing demand from consumers for alternate varieties. Stay ahead of the curve with these expertly curated wines selected by our Tasting Panel.