Perusing through the retail wine shelves or a restaurant wine list, you may have come across “Vermentino” and wondered what it is. Yosemite Sam might guess it is an Italian wild rabbit but he’d be wrong. Though, he’d be right about the Italian part — Vermentino is a grape from Italy.
Yes, Vermentino is a grape variety from Italy that makes white wine. It’s pronounced ver-men-TEE-no. Easy, right? So now you can say it, but will you like it? What does it taste like?
Generally speaking, the taste of Vermentino is somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio — but minus the grassy and cat-pee character of Sauvignon Blanc, and with the minerality of, but not quite as sharp in acidity as, Pinot Grigio. And though it’s best described as a light-bodied white grape, the flavor is fairly complex, with a texture (or mouthfeel) that is a hint oily (in a good way!). You’ll get bright, fresh flavors of peach, pear, lime, grapefruit, and maybe even a hint of almond, depending on where it’s from and how it’s made.
The best examples of Vermentino come from Sardinia, Liguria (in northern Italy), Corsica, and, more recently, Tuscany (more specifically, Maremma). The French also sneak a bit of it into Rose wines of Provence, but in France they call the grape Rolle (pronounced like you would a ball of bread) — that is a tidbit of trivia you can wow your friends with at the next dinner party. Vermentino is also grown in other places in Italy, around the Mediterranean, and California (leave it to the Americans to experiment!), but, again, generally speaking, the standard examples will be from areas specified.
When should you drink a Vermentino? Whenever you get the chance! Seriously, it’s a delicious wine, and one that’s perfect for summertime drinking. It’s also somewhat unknown in the USA, so if you see it on a wine list by the glass, or at a friend’s house, by all means give it a try — especially if you are already a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Soave. The Vermentino that makes it to the USA tends to be good quality and fairly priced, so consider springing for a bottle at retail — if you see it, it should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-$18.
Ever tried it? Let everyone know what you think about it, and the brand you tasted, in the comments.