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What is vermentino wine?
There was a minor furore recently when French authorities announced that wines from France could no longer be labelled as ‘vermentino’. Instead, they would have to use the French name for the grape variety, ‘rolle’. Whatever you call it, it’s increasingly popular, not just in Italy and France, but in Australia and California, too.
Vermentino is probably native to Piedmont in Northern Italy. The name is thought to come from the Italian word ‘fermento’ referring to the grape’s tendency to ferment vigorously. It is thought that the variety reached France via the island of Corsica. There are now more hectares of vermentino (rolle) in France than in Italy.
In France, it’s grown all over the south of the country such as the Rhône valley, Provence and the Languedoc. While in Italy vermentino is usually bottled on its own, in France, it is often blended with varieties such as roussanne, or red varieties like cinsault and granache to make rosé. As a warm-climate grape, it is increasingly popular in Australia and California, but care must be taken not to pick too late or it can lose acidity.
What does vermentino wine taste like?
Vermentino usually tastes of citrus fruit such as lemons, oranges and satsumas. There’s often an attractive bitter note too, reminiscent of grapefruit skin, apricots or almonds. Early picked examples can have a grassy edge, whereas riper examples can be full of orange blossom, peaches and voluptuous texture, but at the risk of losing freshness. The best examples come from Piedmont and Sardinia and often have a salty, mineral edge.
What dishes go well with vermentino wine?
Most vermentinos are designed to be drunk young, but the very best can age where they become richer, taking on flavours of bitter orange and almonds. Vermentino pairs well with fish and seafood recipes. It also has the body to stand up to rich tomato dishes like ratatouille, and it can be magnificent with pasta dishes and pesto pasta recipes.
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