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Viva Vermentino
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 29, 2014
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Aia Vecchia, Toscana (Italy) Vermentino 2013 (Dalla Terra, $12):  If I had to name my favorite native Italian white grape variety, I might very well say Vermentino.  It’s not a variety that you see a lot of.  The island of Sardinia is the principal source for Vermentino in Italy, and Sardinian wines aren’t really mainstream in Italian restaurants here, or in wine shops.  And of the few wineries that produce Vermentino wine on Italy’s mainland, most of them are small.  To find Vermentino in this market takes a bit of hunting, but if you ask me, of course I’ll say that it’s worth the effort.

My favorite Vermentino wines come from the regions of Tuscany and Liguria, where I find the wines to have a bit more character than those in Sardinia.  Liguria is such a narrow region -- tucked below Piedmont, stretching from Tuscany in the east to France in the west — that most of the vineyards are coastal.  Tuscany too has a long seacoast, and that’s where the Vermentino grows.  This terrific 2013 Vermentino carries the appellation, IGT Toscana, and could technically come from anywhere in that large region, but in fact it comes from the Tuscan coast, from estate vineyards of Aia Vecchia situated in the province of Grosetto, in southern Tuscany.

Vermentino is considered an aromatic grape variety but its wines don’t have the intensity of aroma and flavor of, for example, Riesling wines.  In this 2013 Aia Vecchia Vermentino, the aroma suggests to me ripe pear and flowers, with an edge of grapefruit.  In the mouth, the wine is dry and nearly full-bodied, with a compelling oily-like texture and enough acidity to support that rich texture from within, like struts supporting a domed tent.  In fact, the wine has plenty of acidity, but the weight and texture mask it, so that the wine comes across soft and rich rather than crisp.  The flavors are fruity, like citrus and citrus skin, as well as having a bit of earthiness.  These flavors carry across the whole length of your mouth and end in a long, fruity-herbal finish.  Altogether it is a dry, richly-textured unoaked white, well-structured, fresh, flavorful and complete. It’s refreshing to drink and intellectually satisfying.

Aia Vecchia is a property founded in 1978 by the Pellegrini family and situated in the Bolgheri wine district along Tuscany’s central coast.  The family chose the site with the help of the highly-respected Hungarian enologist, the late Tibor Gal, who was responsible for several early vintages of Ornellaia, working first with Andre Tchelistcheff and subsequently Michel Rolland.  Aia Vecchia produces red wines based on Bordeaux varieties from its home vineyard, as well as Morellino di Scansano, a Sangiovese-Merlot blend. This Vermentino hails from a 24-acre estate vineyard farther south in Tuscany.

This Vermentino contains five percent Viognier; the Viognier probably accounts for the floral aromas as well as a pleasant, mild grip of the wine along your tongue.  This straightforward un-oaked, youthful wine is perfect now, but I suspect that can last over two more summers.  Right now I am finding it terrifically satisfying with my summer staple, tomatoes and mozzarella with basil.

90 Points