Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Beautiful Tuscan White

The Tuscan wine district of Bolgheri, named for a quaint hamlet located some 60 miles southwest of Florence, has been one of the most celebrated in all of Italy over the past two decades. The vineyards, planted primarily to Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (with a scattering of Petit Verdot) - as well as a moderate amount of Tuscany's signature red variety, Sangiovese - are located only a few miles from the ocean. Though quite different in nature than this region's other famous reds (such as Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico), the Bolgheri reds have been acclaimed as among the most distinctive in a country noted for its singular vinous offerings. You only need to know the names of a few of these wines, such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Grattamacco to know the quality of this wine zone.

But Bolgheri is also home to some vary special whites. Sauvignon (Blanc) is grown at a few estates and the cool climate here gives these wines a distinct edge, with grassy notes and bell pepper flavors. However, as Sauvignon (as it is generally referred to in Italy) is more greatly associated with the northern Italian regions of Friuli and Alto Adige, only a handful of producers in Bolgheri work with this variety.

Rather it is Vermentino that is the leading white variety of Bolgheri. Also grown on the island of Sardinia, where it can express its special qualities exceptionally well, Vermentino is at home in Bolgheri's maritime climate. This is a variety that needs a long, cool growing season to realize its aromatics of pine and pear which are backed by vibrant acidity. This is a wonderful aromatic white that is usually best served by fermentation and aging in stainless steel or cement tanks instead of wooden casks, which would rob the wine of its perfumes. There is often a pleasant minerality in the finish and often, as these grapes are planted so close to the sea, a light saltiness in the wine, which makes it ideal for pairing with shellfish.

I recently tasted the 2009 Guado al Tasso Vermentino and I'm happy to report what a delight this wine truly is! I've enjoyed this wine from several vintages and frankly the current 2009 bottling is as fine as I've tasted. This was a special vintage in Bolgheri (and in reality for white wines in many areas throughout Italy), as the wines have excellent depth of fruit, rich aromatics and ideal structure. These whites, while pleasant now, are just rounding out and will be better with another 6 months in the bottle, with the finest drinking well for another three to seven years.

Guado al Tasso is owned, incidentally by Piero Antinori, so you know his commitment to quality; my notes on the 2009 Vermentino focus on the honeydew melon, pear and mango flavors, the light minerality and the richness on the palate. I've tried this with Oriental food and it's a great match (especially with shrimp or pork), but I'd also love it with a vegetable risotto or pasta with clams. The suggested retail price is $25 and for me, it's worth every penny.


  1. I like that Vermentno, although my favorite Vermentino is Grattamacco. While there recently, I tasted Cinzia's Sauvignon (the 06 is pretty darn good) and Gaja is working on a Vermentino, too. Should be available next year.

  2. Jeremy:

    Thanks for the update on Gaja and their upcoming Vermentino. I'll look forward to that.

    I agree on Grattamacco - a lovely wine!