Monday, June 21, 2021

Vermentino Sprouts In The US, Featured In Taste-Off

Vermentino is believed to have originated in Italy, but this light-skinned grape is increasing in plantings in the US.

A Celebration Of Vermentino

Sometimes you need to blaze a new trail. It feels that way sometimes with white wines. There is a small cadre of dependable white wines that are readily available in the US, such as Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc – but there is another diverse world of white grapes worthy of your attention. Some of those may be in a vineyard just a short drive from your front door.

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Vermentino is a good case in point. It’s one of several Italian white grapes, like Trebbiano and Verdicchio, that is capable of making either exceptional bottles or lackluster, neutral-tasting wines. It goes by a number of other names such as Malvoisie, Rolle, and Favortia. Vermentino is home in Sardinia, Liguria, and coastal Tuscany – but is emerging as a popular pick in some US wine regions, including North Carolina, and the results are impressive.

One reason for the growth is that the grape is amazingly food-friendly. The lighter, acidic and minerally versions pair well with seafood and light entrees. The richer, creamier wines can be paired with pasta and cream dishes.

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Epic Tasting Event

Arthur Barham, of Merlot2Muscadine, is one of the leading advocates for North Carolina wine. To delve further into this unique grape, he decided to host an incredible blind Vermentino tasting, featuring two bottles from North Carolina alongside wines from Virginia and Italy. Despite the threat of stormy weather, a group of 16 wine lovers and media influencers gathered to taste the wines, accompanied by gourmet small plates.
The wine lineup includes the 2019 Raffaldini Vermentino Superiore, 2018 (NC), Piccione Vermentino, 2019 (NC), Barboursville Vermentino Reserve from Virginia, and the Terre di Talamo Vento Vermentino Maremma from Tuscany. The tasting coincided with North Carolina Wine Month.

Let The Tasting Begin!

The hospitality began with frozen limoncello from Seventy Eight Degrees Spirits in Raleigh, NC. This was followed by sabering Gervais Gobillard Brut Champagne (by yours truly).

This was perhaps the most unique blind tasting we’ve attended. We tasted the wines in two rounds, the first in black, opaque glasses, to remove the visual clues and allow the taster to focus on the flavors and aromas.

The food took no backseat to the wine in this epic event. Small plates, each carefully designed to pair with Vermentino, included mini Caprese salad, grilled shrimp in pesto (with Poor Man's Dressing) and culminated with lemon ginger cheesecake with lemon custard reduction, a chocolate orb, and ginger cookie.

North Carolina wine was in abundance throughout the afternoon, including sparkling Biltmore Estate wine at the beginning and Childress Finish Line dessert wine at the end -- in addition to the two NC Vermentino.

And The Winner Is…

The four wines displayed a range of flavors and aromas. All were dry with good acidity. One had a fresh citrus bouquet that burst out of the glass while others had more delicate notes of grapefruit and crushed rocks.

My favorite had round flavors of lemon, and pineapple, with swirls of minerality and a beautiful seam of salinity. The second time through the wines, I began to better appreciate the subtle nuances of the wines I originally ranked 3rd and 4th.

Which wine won? The results have been embargoed by Arthur but I can reveal the Italian wine did not! Cheers to Arthur and Mary for hosting this epic event.

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