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Vermentino

BBC Good Food Wine Club tasting notes

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Explore the world’s best grape varieties with Henry Jeffreys and BBC Good Food Wine Club – this month, Vermentino

There was a minor furore recently when French authorities announced that wines from France could no longer be labelled as ‘Vermentino’. Instead, they would have to carry the French name for the grape variety, ‘Rolle’. Whatever you call it, it’s increasingly popular not just in Italy and France, but with plantings in Australia and California, too.

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Need to know

Vermentino is probably native to Piedmont in Northern Italy. The name is thought to come from the Italian word ‘fermento’, referring to the grape’s tendency to ferment vigorously.

It is thought that the variety reached France via the island of Corsica. There are now more hectares of Vermentino (Rolle) in France than in Italy.

In France, it’s grown all over the south of the country such as the Rhône valley, Provence and the Languedoc. While in Italy, Vermentino is usually bottled on its own, in France, it is often blended with varieties such as Roussanne, or with red varieties like Cinsault and Granache to make rosé.

As a warm climate variety, it is increasingly popular in Australia and California, but care must be taken not to pick too late, or it can lose acidity.

Tasting notes

Vermentino usually tastes of citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and satsumas. There’s often an attractive bitter note too, reminiscent of grapefruit skin, apricots or almonds.

Early picked examples can have a grassy edge, whereas riper examples can be full of orange blossom, peaches and voluptuous texture, but at the risk of losing freshness.

The finest examples come from Piedmont and Sardinia, and often have a salty mineral edge.

Most Vermentinos are designed to be drunk young, but the very best can age – they become richer, taking on flavours of bitter orange and almonds.

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Dishes to try with Vermintino

As you might expect, Vermentino loves fish and seafood. Try it with that Sardinian classic, spaghetti with bottarga (dried fish roe), or with good old fish & chips. It works wonderfully with citrus fruit, like a fennel & orange salad. Vermentino also has the body to stand up to rich tomato dishes like ratatouille or aubergine parmigiana, and it can be magnificent with pasta and pesto.

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