Best known for crisp whites from Sardinia and Liguria, vermentino is finding a new home in Australia, keeping fresh flavours and bright acidity even in some of our warmest regions.
Also known as
Vermentino is called rolle in France, vermentinu in Corsica, favorita in Piedmont, and pigato is a synonym in Liguria, but in Italy it is regarded as a different variety altogether.
What vermentino tastes like
With a flavour profile dominated by citrus, the flavours tend to more lemon and yellow grapefruit at lower ripeness, along with pear notes, with red grapefruit and more orange-skinned citrus chiming in when riper, with saline, sea spray and oyster shell mineral notes quite common, too. It is also traditionally associated with an almond-like bitter note on the finish.
Vineyard & winemaking
Holding acid well, vermentino is adaptable to warmer climates, making it an ideal white variety for Australia’s warmer regions. The grape can be made into different styles, from racy and quite fine, to those that are picked riper and can take some chardonnay-like winemaking, including malolactic fermentation and oak use.
Where is vermentino grown?
Vermentino largely grows in coastal areas, tracing an arc from Tuscany’s Maremma through the crescent of Liguria and across the French Riviera through Provence and onto the Languedoc. It also takes up a significant role in the wines of Corsica and Sardinia. Further inland in Italy, vermentino (or favorita, as it’s called locally) is a fringe grape in Piedmont, while it reaches its greatest heights in Liguria and Sardinia, such as in Liguria’s Colli di Luni DOC, where the vines are grown above the towering cliffs that skirt the Mediterranean. The climate is sub-Alpine there, with sunshine and fresh breezes at night building flavour at more modest alcohol. Pigato, which is genetically identical to vermentino, is seen as a different variety there, with it having mutated into what is essentially a different clone, with the wines it makes generally fuller and made for longer ageing. And while Ligurian vermentino is prized, Sardinia accounts for nearly 70 per cent of Italy’s plantings, and their best expressions, largely from the Vermentino di Gallura DOCG – arguably Vermentino’s most famous home – can be exceptional. In Provence, it also makes varietal whites, while in the Languedoc it contributes to blends.
Vermentino around the world
Outside of Italy and France, vermentino is not widely planted, though there are modest plantings across the US in warmer regions.
Vermentino in Australia
Vermentino was imported into Australia by the Chalmers family as part of their Italian nursery project. They produced Australia’s first commercial vermentino in 2004, which also launched the Chalmers label. While the grape hasn’t exploded in popularity, plantings now exceed 120 hectares and there is good consumer recognition. Most of the vines are planted in warmer areas, from the Murray Darling to McLaren Vale.
Photo of vermentino grapes seen here, courtesy of Chalmers vineyard.
Some of the best Australian vermentino