I adore Vermentino (aka Rolle, Pigato and Favorita) for its floral nose scented with honeysuckle, yellow pears and sometimes star fruit. While I’ve tasted it in its many forms for a long time, my keen interest began only about six years ago, as I noticed that many places other than Tuscany, Sardegna, Corsica and the Languedoc were making Vermentino.
So clearly, it’s a transportable grape variety. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a lot of attention. It’s easy to over-crop it and even easier to let it sit so long on the wine that its resulting wine becomes flabby.
Furthermore, Vermentino takes to many different styles. It can be picked early with fewer floral and tropical tones to make a leaner wine, unless a lot of lees work is employed. It’s usually made in stainless steel to preserve freshness, but some producers ferment in barrels and employ lees stirring. These highly varied techniques have equally varying amounts of success. But, the good stuff is really, really good. Hence, the title of this piece alluding to my thankfulness to recently bump into two truly lovely expressions of Vermentino. Moreover, these two showcase very different expressions of the grape, which makes for a fun contrast.
Aia Vecchia 2016 Vermentino Toscana IGT $12
This is a vigorous Italian wine. I can even imagine it personified as an Italian (human), engaging in a lot of hand-gesturing, laughs and emphatic statements. In order to see this dynamism, I strongly encourage sippers to drink this chilled, but not cold. That is because it is a medium-bodied Vermentino that, frankly, drinks more like broader Rhône wines and European Chardonnays rather than a lean simple sipper. Chill this too much, and you squelch its plentiful charisma. Yes, it starts off lemony on the palate with rinds and piths, making it quintessentially Italian. But then there’s a creamy texture followed by bitterness that makes it excellent for the table. The palate moves into nuances of yellow pear skin and yellow plums. This is tremendously accessible and useful on the patio as well as at the table.
I always notice that when I have written a lot, it’s because I’m tasting an outstanding wine. So, please don’t let the 88 score be a dissuasion. This is an excellent representation of Vermentino and a totally delightful wine. Still, it is ready for drinking now and its dynamism is most likely appreciated in its youth. So, were we talking about a scale of young, drink on the early side wines, I’d say this might be a 92. But, in the overall scheme of all wines, I rate this an 88. It’s an awesome wine, and besides if you average that out, it’s a 90. (Big grin!)
Drink: 2017-Early 2019
Olianas 2015 Vermentino di Sardegna DOC $15
This wine has less overt floral character and more pronounced savory lees character than most Vermentinos anywhere, and that is what makes it very uniquely Sardinian. Sardinian producers often pick Vermentino early in order to preserve acidity. That does, however, mean that there is less generously ripe (though still ripe) fruit character. Hence, there is often more lees work, and in this case, the 20% of the grapes that were picked early were fermented in amphora as well as stainless. Thirty percent of the total wine also sees large format wood aging. The suave acidity and light pithiness are highly integrated and pull the flavors of salted Spanish almonds into a solid finish. This is a more intellectual and less “obvious” wine than the Aia Vecchia, but it’s absolutely terrific for a geekier crowd.