It was said – by Jancis Robinson if my memory serves me well – that the vignerons of the Médoc are glad to put white Graves on the table when a dish calls for white wine so that they don’t have to resort to serving Burgundy. The same dilemma faces the producers of Tuscany; with so much red wine made, what whites should be served? One answer is Vernaccia di San Gimignano, but many now turn to Vermentino as a fresh white wine.
This variety is well established in southern France and north western Italy – including the major islands of Corsica and Sardinia – under several different names:
- Rolle in Provence, especially around Nice (a former Italian county)
- Favorita in Piedmont
- Pigato in Liguria
- Vermentino in Sardinia, Corsica, Languedoc-Roussillon and Tuscany
Vermentino can be used in a Tuscan DOC wine -Colli di Luni which crosses the border into Liguria – but often features in IGT Toscana. Here’s one I tried recently and really enjoyed:
Disclosure: bottle was kindly supplied as a sample, but opinions remain my own
Mazzei Tenuta Belguardo Vermentino di Toscana 2018
Mazzei is of course best known for its excellent Chianti Classico wines (see my reviews of the Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2012 and 2015). However, although the climate of northern Siena is perfect for Sangiovese, it is too warm for fresh white wines. Hence, Vermentino is usually grown in the Province of Grosseto, close to the cooling sea breezes of the Tyrrhenian.
This Vermentino is a complex wine. The nose has some smoky reduction followed by ripe grapefruit, peach and a hint of mango. It’s the sort of nose that unrolls as a story for your olfactory senses. Those smoke and fruit notes follow through to the palate where they are joined by fresher fruit – quince and lemon – and a mineral core. The finish is a little coy, but very long and fresh.
With average alcohol (12.5%) and both fruit and clean aspects to it, this is a delicious and versatile wine that would be great with a wide range of foods or simply as an alternative to Chablis style wines.
PS: the title Pentagons and Pyramids refers to the shape of Vermentino’s leaves and grape bunches, respectively.