by Rose Murray Brown   Published in The Scotsman 8 August 2015

If you have holidayed in Provence, Tuscany, Corsica or Sardinia, you might well have come across a wine labelled Vermentino.

It might sound like the name of a fancy Italian herbal drink or a mouthwash, but Vermentino is in fact a very fine ancient white grape.  It is also becoming very popular in the UK as almost every wine merchant and supermarket now lists one from somewhere in the world – priced from under £5 to over £20.  Most Vermentinos sold here are unoaked fresh crisp and youthful – ideal for serving as summery aperitifs as an alternative to your usual staple Pinot Grigio.

Confusingly as Vermentino grape is found in France, Italy and now in USA and Australia – it does come under several synonyms.  In Provence and Languedoc Roussillon it is known as ‘Rolle’ – and often appears in blends (for example in Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Languedoc White £8 where it is blended alongside Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Marsanne).

In the Roero valley in Piedmont in north west Italy, where it has been grown at least since C16, it is called ‘Favorita’.  Not far away in Genoa on the Ligurian coast they like to call the grape ‘Pigato’ – and hop over to Corsica, where it has been grown since C14, you will find wine growers referring to Vermentino as ‘Malvasia de Corse’.  So poor old Vermentino is a victim of its own success with its own local appreciation clubs adopting their own synonyms.  In Sardinia, where Vermentino is its most important grape, it goes by its own name (phew) – and now has its very own DOCG, the island’s first and only.

Now producers in all regions are focusing on single varietal 100% Vermentino to make it easier for us.  As our tasting shows there are some great value French and Italian examples from Languedoc, Sardinia, Corsica, Tuscany down to Sicily.  Now you can even find it in Lebanon (Massaya are experimenting with it here), in Malta, Australia, California, Virginia and Texas where producers are also getting in on the act – of these look out for de Bortoli’s fine Vermentino from the King Valley in Victoria (it used to be sold in Asda, but appears to have been sadly delisted).

So what does Vermentino taste like?  Floral on the aroma, zesty and minerally on the palate with definite herby undertones – rosemary and sage.  It always has a full bodied feel to the mid-palate with alcohol hovering at about 13%.  Under £10, our tasters found that it can have a tendency towards dullness and neutrality, so choose carefully from our list below.

The younger fresh zippier Vermentinos go really well as unoaked aperitifs or served alongside light fish or chicken dishes cooked with herbs or citrus, linguini or pasta and herb sauce.  The richer more mature examples, often those found in Italy, particularly Vermentinos from the Bolgheri region on the Tuscan coast, tend to work better with richer meat dishes like veal or pork.


Le Stelle Vermentino di Sardegna 2013 (£8.99 Waitrose)
Alcohol: 13%
Tasters found this acceptable – they enjoyed its fragrant aromas, peach and lemon fruits – but it was a bit disappointing in terms of herby character at this price.  Vermentino di Sardegna can be produced anywhere on the island – often at their best they are lively and characterful, but there are better examples of Vermentino from Sardinia.

Vermentino di Sardegna ‘Iocalis’ 2014 Melis (£8.25 The Wine Society)
Alcohol 13.5%
‘Iocalis’ means jewel in the local dialect.  Grapes are harvested early to ensure good acidity, the fermented in tank at cool temperatures to retain primary floral notes and freshness.  A vibrant unoaked herby crisp dry white, but disappointingly bitter on the finish.  Made in the southwest of Sardinia in the Terralba commune – by Melis family

Vermentino Aragosta 2013 Santa Maria la Palma (£10.95 Valvona & Crolla)
Alcohol 13%
This had a nutty character to it – lively fresh vibrant palate with almond and marzipan notes to the finish – but also with the typical underlying herby notes too.  Try it with a mushroom and herb risotto.


Vin de Corse Vermentino 2014 Domaine Saparale (£14.95 Yapp Bros www.yapp.co.uk)
Alcohol 13%
This reminds me of lying in a wildflower meadow – such an enchanting floral aroma with a definite sage and spice note on the palate.  It is fresh and pretty vibrant, so ideal to serve your unsuspecting friends with an unusual aperitif.  In comparison to the supermarket Vermentinos, this had a great deal for character.  Made by Philippe Farinielli’s family estate in south west Corsica.  Corsica has 800 hectares, so it would be great to see more Corsican examples over here.  Well done Yapp for tracking this one down.  STAR BUY


Cantaro Vermentino 2013 (£6.98 Asda)
Alcohol 12%
Very acceptable Vermentino at this price from the Tuscan coast – it has that characteristic Italian nuttiness and a touch more richness than Languedoc Vermentinos.  Slightly less herbiness than you find in other Vermentinos – but the sort of wine style that would appeal to those who normally think Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

Vermentino ‘Solosole’ 2014 Poggio al Tesoro (2012 vintage is £15.95 reduced from £18.95 at Valvona & Crolla; 2014 vintage @£17 Drinkmonger, Edinburgh & Pitlochry; Fine Wine Company, Edinburgh)
Alcohol 13.8%
A very popular bottle at our tasting.  Vermentino at its richest with lovely intense spiciness and rich herby notes, citric fruit concentration, full textured, much fuller in flavour than anything else in our tasting – ideal for serving with veal or pork dishes.  STAR BUY

Vermentino by Rose Murray Brown MWSICILY

The Venturer Series Vermentino 2014 (£4.79 Aldi)
Alcohol 12%
On the lighter side of Vermentino, it has a hint of the herby note, but is mainly lemony and zesty – ideal for those looking for something light, crisp, quaffable and undemanding.  Not really typical of Italian Vermentinos, but this Sicilian own label wine from Aldi is terrific value at under £5.  STAR VALUE BUY



Paul Mas Vermentino 2014 (£6.74 / £8.99 Majestic Wine)
Alcohol 13%
This ticked the boxes as a fresh vibrant zippy Vermentino – and it would be a good value buy at £6.74.  This is one of the few decent bargain Vermentinos which isn’t too neutral in flavour – it is made by the indefatigable Jean-Claude Mas of Domaine Paul Mas.

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