Posted by: tomciocco | August 23, 2013

A SINGULAR VERSION OF A SINGULAR WINE – VERMENTINO DI GALLURA

There’s lots of talk about the term terroir in wine, and this term applies in spades to certain producers in certain regions, but in other appellations from the production of other producers, the taste and aromas of “place” is almost completely absent. This evening’s wine is the creation of an auteur that is profoundly connected to his patch of earth, and depending on your tastes, that might just be too much of a good thing, but not for this wino…

The Vermentino grape variety is grown all over the island of Sardegna, as well as on the Tuscan coast, the Ligurian coast, and in Provence under the name of Rolle. In Italy, all of  the appellations in which Vermentino is grown are either designated as D.O.C.s, or the even less restrictive I.G.T. distinction but for one, and that is Sardegna’s only D.O.C.G. wine, Vermentino di Gallura.

The Gallura region is situated on the extreme northeastern corner of this ancient and peculiar island, and the wines that emanate from this region are, in the opinion of most drinkers (including this one), are a cut above the rest, well-deserving of Italy’s top official viticultural classification. Typically, Vermentino is a pretty, sunny, light and fragrant wine that is unmatched with light and fresh seafood dishes: shrimp, cockles, snow-white-fleshed fish like sole or hake, to name few. The Vermentino wines from Gallura however are deeper, earthier, and more powerful than Vermentino coming from any other region. These wines have enough “oomph” to stand up to meaty fish, mussels, and dishes that feature one of Sardegna’s signature maritime products, bottarga, which is an intense and pungent dried log of compressed mullet roe that is most often shaved over seafood pasta dishes.

In my experience, Vermentino di Gallura even has enough structure and power to pair well with terrestrial fare like rabbit or pork. And then there this particular bottling which sports 13.5% alcohol, and a uniquely rustic but still sophisticated intensity that puts it at the bleeding edge of what is this grape’s finest expression. So in keeping with this appellation’s strengths (and this one’s in particular), I matched it with a first course of zuppa alla gallurese  – a “dry” soup of toasted, garlic-rubbed peasant bread under a thick soup of tomato, onion, olive oil, basil, and lots of grated Pecorino Sardo cheese, followed by a main course of marinated and then braised swordfish with lightly caramelized onions, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice and zest, with fennel steamed with white wine for the contorno.

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Az. Vit. Renato Spanu Vermentino di Gallura Superiore “Jankara” 2010

Very bright yellow/golden color. Funky nose of intense minerality, grilled peaches, stewed apricots, dried flowers, roasted almonds, dark honey, oregano, kerosene, and egg custard. In the mouth the wine is big, broad, deep, and intense, with a balancing tightly nervous acidity and flavors of burnt orange zest, honeydew melon rind, pineapple nectar, lemon curd, mint, white spices, marshmallow, and boiled peanuts. Long and elegant bitter/grassy finish.

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