Vermentino – Quality White Grape in Texas
More and more, Italian grape varietals are showing up in wines at Texas wineries and tasting rooms. Probably the key reason for this is that these grapes prosper in hot, arid, sunny areas of Texas that are similar in climate to important Italian growing regions that are hilly, if not downright mountainous, limited in rainfall, and blessed with maritime influenced, rock-strewn, sandy, calcium-rich soils.
Vermentino (or Rolle) is a white wine grape that may have originated in Spain, but is now found predominantly in Italy. It is used in many DOC (like appellations or AVA’s) regional wines, including Sardinia, in Liguria as Pigato, on the island of Corsica, in the Piedmont as Favorita, and Tuscany as Vermentino. The grape is also common to the southern French regions of Languedoc and Roussillon where it is called Rolle. Because Wild Horse Winery in Paso Robles originally registered the grape as Vermentino in the U.S., the BATF limits this grape to that single name throughout the country.
Vermentino has found its way into other wine regions, including Carneros and Paso Robles in CA, the southern Appalachian mountains of VA, the Yadkin Valley of NC, and several areas in Central/West Texas and New Mexico. Many of the U.S. vines were sourced from NovaVine nursery in CA, the partner of Tablas Creek Winery owned by the Perrin family, proprietors of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape estate, Ch Beaucastel. The Perrins brought the grape to the U.S. believing it would thrive in the warm, rocky limestone soils of Paso Robles. There are also Vermentino plantings in western and southern Australia.
Vermentino has bright acidity, making it very refreshing and food friendly, with citrus and wet mineral aromas and flavors. The grapes are large with excellent sugar/acid balance, and produce full-bodied wines with rich floral aromas. Vermentino is also commonly harvested for table grapes. The hot, dry, rolling rocky hills of the island of Corsica are the most common growing area for Vermentino. That sort of sounds like the Texas Hill Country – right?
In the vineyard, Vermentino is an easy varietal to grow. It is a vigorous vine, resistant to most vineyard diseases and pests, tolerant of drought conditions, and tends to ripen conveniently in the middle of the harvest cycle. At the recent Texas Grape Camp, presented in Fredericksburg by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, a panel of grape growers presented lots of evidence that Vermentino may be the best-suited white grape currently growing in the Lone Star State. Good quality, ripe fruit, even at generous yields, produces a lot of delicious, refreshing wine. Vermentino handles drought conditions well, needs less irrigation than most other grapes, and the natural resistance to vineyard diseases (mold and mildew) and pests is a true blessing to grape growers.
To preserve freshness, bright citrus character, natural minerality and mouthwatering acidity, Vermentino is usually fermented cool in stainless steel tanks and not allowed to undergo secondary malolactic fermentation. Wines tend to be light in color and lower in alcohol with aromas and flavors of green apple, lime fruit and oyster shells. Make sure to try as many Vermentino wines as possible and prepare yourself for many more as Texas growers and winemakers focus on this versatile and valuable white grape.
Vermentino is found in several wines at 4.0 Cellars. McPherson Cellars produces a lovely varietal Vermentino with citrus and mineral notes, perfect for the patio or table. Vermentino is often used in blended wines by both McPherson Cellars and Lost Oak Winery.