Vermentino di Gallura has very much its unique sense of place.
It is as evocative of the crystalline waters, pale sand beaches and its colourful towns, such as nearby Castelsardo. Winelovers might know this Mediterranean gem of a grape as Rolle from Provence or Favorita from Piedmonte. In Provence, Rolle is often found blended into the regions famous rosé wines.
Check out some of those rosé wines here in Rosé wines from the South of France are so good that you will blush to drink anything else!!
However, when you look at the island that is Sardegna (or Sardinia if you prefer) you realise a couple of things. That in the wine world, the more famous island of Sicily to the south overshadows it. And secondly, just how close it is to the French island of Corsica just 11 kilometres directly to the north.
It is thought that wine has been made from as far back as 1400 BC. Although, Vermentino may have been a more recent import to the island. Some experts have said the grape maybe from Spain, and first planted between the 15th and 17th century. Similarly, Sardegna’s most popular red grapes such as Cannonau (Garnacha) and Carignano or Carignan are also from Spain.
According to regulationary body, the first ever reports of Vermentino on Sardegna was in Gallura. Pure luck or an intuitive choice? Either way, the rest is history.
A specialist Vermentino DOCG
Even so, Vermentino is one of Sardegna’s most beloved white wine grape varieties. Particularly in the region Gallura which is on the very Northern tip of the Island. Gallura has the island’s only Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)* region. It is a relatively new DOCG designated region, it was established nearly 20 years ago in 1996. Under the regulations each bottle released needs to contain at least 95% Vermentino. If a winemaker wishes to include another white variety, it needs to be one within the regulations stipulated – A non-aromatic white grape.
A limit to the yield (10 tons per hectare) for DOCG wine means that since the attaining this quality distinction the general quality of the Vermentino di Gallura has improved. The ‘Superiore’ level of this wine has a slightly lower yield (9 tons). The rest of the island tends to allow higher yields at harvest which produce lighter, less concentrated wines. Just under half the vineyard area dedicated to the grape is grown in Galllura vs the rest of Sardegna. Remarkably the volume produced in those vineyards in the rest of Sardegna is more than double Gallura’s volume. The wines are still enjoyable but not as interesting.
Not just a tourist destination ….
Here the vineyards are close to the famously turquoise sea or in the hinterland in the mountains. Interestingly, in Gallura, there is a maximum altitude. The vineyards must be at or below 500 metres above sea level. Indeed, Vermentino is a white grape that requires warmth to ripen. Moreover, it is also resistant to dry conditions during the ripening period, something that is characteristic of the Mediterranean climate of Sardegna. A climate that tourists and locals love with long, hot and dry summers.
The presence of a constant wind also creates conditions in the vineyards to optimise ripening and health of those precious Vermentino grapes. Additionally, the wind leaves its salty mark and that saline character is notable in a Vermentino di Gallura wine. The poor soil in these vineyards means that the roots of the vines run deep here. The depth of these roots means better access to any water that is in the soil during those dry summers.
A certain style …
In this region, Vermentino can be made into either a dry still white wine, a sparkling wine or a Passito dessert wine. As it can in most other parts of Sardegna. It goes without saying that the dry crisp white version is the one winelovers are most likely to find. It is by far the best known and more widely available.
The richly sweet Passito wines are made by harvesting the wines and drying them before crushing and fermenting. Another unexpected version of Vermentino di Gallura is a ‘Vendemmia Tardiva’ version. This is quite literally a ‘late picked’ version. The unexpected aspect of this wine is that it is fermented to be dry rather than as dessert wine. That extra ripening time gives the wines some extra body and a higher alcohol.
There is plenty of Vermentino produced on the Island. There it is sold as Vermentino di Sardegna DOC.
For some Australian Vermentino recommendations, please check out The veritable story of Viognier, Vermentino & Verduzzo
What to enjoy with Vermentino
Vermentino wines are the perfect food wines. The wines are often floral, salty and range from pear and citrus to a more tropical fruit lushness. They are well suited for the Mediterranean lifestyle of the regions where the grape thrives. Culurgiones, the cheese and mint filled pasta are a local delicacy and are a superb match. Even better if they are fried.
Of course, seafood is also a superb match. Classic matches are Langoustines, lobster or the like served with garlic, marinara sauces over fresh cooked pasta, BBQ octopus or fish. So too are the classic vegetables such as artichokes, spinach and rocket.
This was a stand out at a Vermentino di Gallura tasting...
This Vermentino di Gallura was particularly fragrant. It was also particularly spicy after that lees contact. Fresh floral notes and spice was nowhere near the end of this Vermentino story. In came the lemon, minerality and dried herbs. A fuller bodied and richer style of Vermentino but the balance is impeccable.
*DOCG is the category that regulates Italy’s highest quality level wine