Posted by: tomciocco | May 4, 2014

THE TIP-TOP VERMENTINO FROM THE TIP-TOP OF SARDEGNA

As is the case with so many grape varieties, the precise geographical origins of Vermentino are still unclear. But that said, Vermentino which is also known by the names Rolle in southern France, Favorita in Piedmont and Pigato in Liguria, where it is grown cheek by jowl with “Vermentino” despite the fact that genome mapping has unequivocally established that Vermentino, Rolle, Pigato and Favorita are one in the same variety.

Clearly, Vermentino is an adaptable and hardy vine considering that it thrives in all of these diverse areas, but for me and lots of other winos too, there is one place in which Vermentino thrives like no other, and produces wines that no other region can match, and it’s not in a place that hardly anyone would expect, and that place is Sardegna. To be more precise – and this extra level of precision is crucial – the northeastern corner of the island in a region that is known by the name Gallura. The chapter and verse of what makes Vermentino di Gallura the best of their kind are multiple and to some extent, still a bit mysterious but the very useful term terroir really shows its worth here, perfectly encapsulating this region’s completely unique combination of soil, sea, winds, temperatures, and sunlight, all of which brilliantly conspire to coax the maximum goodness from this quintessentially northern Mediterranean white grape.

Not surprisingly, Vermentino di Gallura is not easy to find outside of its home region. The region’s small size, the market of well-heeled tourists that vacation and of course dine here, and the esteem with which the wine is held by locals and and connoisseurs alike make turning up a bottle a bit tough at times. Don’t be fooled. There are rivers of Vermentino di Sardegna made, as the name implies, all over the island, and some of them are very good indeed, but very few if any match the complexity, elegance and sophistication of the wines from Gallura. Keep your eyes peeled for them; despite their reputation if you can find them they don’t command premium prices…at least not yet, but the word is getting around…

As I’ve mentioned in other posts that have featured Sardinian wines, despite Sardegna being an island, the Sardinians eat surprisingly modest amounts of fish, and though Vermentino always makes a superb match with all kinds of fish dishes, in keeping with Sardinian tradition, I served a first course called zuppa gallurese, a sort of “dry” soup consisting of layers of bread, grated fennel, mint, parsley and grated pecorino cheese, soaked with chicken broth, topped with a soft cows’ milk cheese and then baked. The main course consisted of chicken parts stewed with orange juice, vegetables, white wine and saffron with a side dish of roasted potatoes and artichokes.

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Vigne Surrau Vermentino di Gallura 2012

Greenish, bright pale gold color. Fresh and forward nose of lime, gooseberry, pear, fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts, white pepper, creamed corn, and dried white flowers. In the mouth the wine shows a medium-weight and crisp texture that is nevertheless deep and quite round, with salty, intense flavors of yellow cherry, peach, papaya, crystallized ginger, and candied citron. The finish is very long and strong with bitter/sweet flavors tonic water and pale honey.

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