Vermentino is a grape that is cultivated along the Mediterranean coast. While it’s origin is a mystery, one thing is sure: it found a fertile home in Tuscany.
If you’ve ever been to Italy in the summertime, surely you’ve had a glass of Vermentino at some point, maybe seated at the seaside having a nice fish dish. A fresh glass of white wine with a sea view is one of the happiest sensations one can have. When I think of summer, I think of Vermentino, this white wine that for me is synonymous with vacations along the Coast of Tuscany, as well as in Sardegna and Liguria. Every glass of this wine tells a story of travel, so let’s get going right away as I tell you a story that takes place on the coast.
Vermentino’s mysterious past
Vermentino is a fascinating but also mysterious wine, in that, contrary to many grape types, we don’t know much about its origins or its name, and experts on the matter disagree. We don’t even know exactly where it comes from or how it got to Italy! Probably Vermentino came from Spain, traveled around the Mediterranean and arrived in Sardegna, Corsica, and southern France. From here, it continued its trip towards the Tyrrhenian Sea, finding home on the coast of Tuscany.
∫But the mystery doesn’t end here… For a long time, in southern France, this grape was called Malvoisie d’Espagne, and now it’s called Malvoise de Corse. On the coast of Liguria, it’s called Malvasia Grossa. This begs the question: is Vermentino a kind of Malvasia? If it is, its origins must be Greek. But then how did it get to Spain? I told you that this would be a bit of a mystery – really we can only be sure that Vermentino comes from the sea!
The charactertistics of Vermentino
While we don’t know how it got here, we do know that along the coast of Tuscany, this grape grows wonderfully well, turning into wines we all love. In Sardinia and Liguria when you see vines really close to the sea you can guess that they are Vermentino and the same goes for Tuscany: nowadays it’s grown from the Alpi Apuane down to the Argentario along the Etruscan Coast, including some truly excellent areas like Bolgheri.
I said that Vermentino comes from the sea, but it also tastes like the sea! It’s main characteristic is sapidity, or rather a savoury crunchiness. Beyond that, it differs between zones – in Tuscany it’s fresh and mineral, while in Liguria it may be more fruity, and in Sardinia more full-bodied with herbacious notes.
Let’s take a closer look at two excellent Vermentinos by Dievole’s wineries in the Bolgheri area, one IGT and one DOC. You can’t go wrong with Tenuta le Colonne’s Vermentino Costa Toscana IGT – straw yellow, ample bouquet of citrus and white flowers. In the mouth, one immediately tastes the saltiness and minerality that are characteristics of this type of wine. The other is Tenuta Meraviglia Vermentino Bolgheri DOC, a special Vermentino blended with 10% Viognier and slightly longer on the lees than its sister from Tenuta Le Colonne, rendering scents of herbs and excellent acidity.
How to pair Vermentino
I’ll finish up our exploration of Vermentino with some tips about how to pair it. As we determined that this wine comes from the sea, the obvious solution is to match it with fish dishes! It goes great with a mixed-seafood fry, or grilled fish of any type, and you can drink it during an aperitivo or throughout the meal, even with white meats. I like it a lot with vegetables too, like fried zucchini flowers, or a vegetarian cous-couse or pasta with pesto. Try it out and let me know what you like best!