Vermentino, usually from Sardinia, is one of the white wines on the well-thought out and wide-ranging list at the brand new Thai restaurant Foreign Correspondents. Vermentino is named after its grape that many might be unknown to many, which is a shame. These wines are often very enjoyable; light, but not without some body, and with more fruit and complexity than the Italian white that is ubiquitous these days, Pinot Grigio. These can be wise choices when looking for a white wine at a restaurant.
Typically straw yellow in color, these have a pleasant bouquet and a taste that is unique, but approachable and usually quite refreshing. These are easy to drink solo, but should complement a range of seafood and lighter fare.
In addition to Sardinia, where it is seemingly most widely grown, Vermentino is cultivated in nearly all the Mediterranean coastal districts from Spain to Liguria in northwestern Italy, and recently the Maremma area of southern Tuscany, plus Corsica. Known as Rolle in France and Pigato in Liguria. The grape’s origins are in Spain, then traveling to Corsica in the 14th century and from there, on to Liguria and then neighboring Tuscany. It made its way to Sardinia only in the final decades of the 19th century, and was first planted in the area of Gallura at the island’s northernmost tip. From the Gallura, it went to the other leading zones on the island, most notably to the provinces of Sassari in the northwest and Cagliari in the south. With its poor soil causing vines to struggle, which increases the intensity of the grapes, Gallura has earned a DOCG designation, the strictest in Italy.
The other zones, on Sardinia, which are under the Vermentino di Sardegna DOC designation have richer and more fertile soils, which permit much higher yields. The result are wines with a lower alcohol level that are smooth and quite palatable, although less assertive, which might be a favorable aspect for most of us, especially during the hot summer months. The grapes are typically vinified in stainless steel tanks, sometimes malolactic fermentation is partially carried out, but oak-aging is seemingly rarely, if ever, used.
You will find Vermentinos mostly at Italian restaurants, but given their ability to pair well with seafood and their affordability – usually between $12 and $22 retail – these are also increasingly seen at other establishments, especially those with at least a few seafood options.