Posted by: tomciocco | March 17, 2013

WILL THE REAL VERMENTINO PLEASE STAND UP…

The Ligurian Sea region has a history stretching back directly to the painted caves of the Paleolithic Era. It seems entirely possible that Phoenicians may have brought the grape vine to this area of the northern Mediterranean centuries before the Greeks carried it to Sicily and Puglia in the south, and the number of ultra-local  varieties, especially whites, is a clear witness to this: Vermentino (this evening’s feature), Pigato, Buzzeto, Bianchetta, Bosco, Albarola, and the list goes on and on.

Of all the whites from this area (which geographically includes Liguria, the Provencal coast, the Tuscan coast, and the islans of Corsica, and Sardegna) Vermentino – or should I say “Vermentino” – is the most diffuse. So why the quotation marks? Well, wines bottled under the name “Vermentino” are made in Corsica, Sardegna, Tuscany, as well as Liguria, and there is no exhaustive and conclusive proof if all and/or any of these varieties are identical, related, or even entirely distinct from one another. What further confuses the matter is that a grape from Provence and Corsica called Rolle is widely accepted as being identical to “Vermentino”, and the fact that all genetic testing thus far done on the aforementioned Pigato vine cannot distiguish its DNA from cultivars generally accepted as “Vermentino”, despite the fact that the two grapes seem to consistently produce different results in the bottle. The Vermentinos from the northern Gallura region of Sardegna smell and taste so noticeably different from all of the others that Vermentino di Gallura carries its own, and Italy’s top D.O.C.G. classification. For me, Vermentino di Gallura holds enough of an edge over its other namesake wines that it seems that just weather and soil, albeit peculiar, couldn’t account for it, but the genetic jury is still out…

And though Vermentino thoroughly covers Sardegna, it is Liguria, with its powerful tourist culture that grows directly from its mild climate, stunningly beautiful scenery, and great food, that seems – like it or not – to carry the standard for the variety. And Liguria’s patchwork of tiny vineyard sites, often very steep or even terraced, make this role even that much harder to comprehend, but the power of the images of places like Cinqueterre and Portofino is strong indeed…

So what is Ligurian Vermentino in the glass? Well, it’s often and rightly considered to be a great fish wine, especially if the fish is grilled or roasted, though this evening’s pasta and chicken paired with this particular one nearly as well…Typically, Vermentino has a fresh, fruity and ever-so-slightly aromatic nose, and a smooth, easy-going, yet spunky, herby character on the palate, and this particular bottling from the western Ligurian coast holds up this reputation very well indeed.

The decidedly Ligurian menu I chose to accompany this wine was a first course of penne with a prosciutto, onion, and pea sauce, and then a main course of chicken done in the manner of coniglio alla ligure (Rabbit Ligurian style – browned then braised with mixed fresh herbs, white wine, garlic, capers, olives, and pine nuts) with the first artichokes of the season that I roasted in the oven with white wine and lemon zest as a side.

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Colle dei Bardellini Vermentino di Liguria di Ponente “U Munte” 2011

Pale and bright “white gold” color. Complex nose of pear, subtle white peach and gooseberry fruit, blue curacao, fresh celery, boiled corn, beeswax, sweet white spices, and hints of lily. The medium body is fresh, with a crisp, sapid, minerally acidity, and sprightly but solid flavors of mandarin orange juice, green melon, white currants, almond milk, hay, and tonic water. Clean rhubarb and vanilla bean finish. 

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Responses

  1. Their Vermentino is very good, but I like the Pigato even more.

  2. The meal looks delicious.

  3. Thanks Doug…and I agree about the Pigato…


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