The Three V’s

Vermentino, Verdelho, Viognier

Hello Everyone,
This week I’m divulging the name and location of my favorite seafood restaurant, where a sommelier once recommended a wine that I still love today. And it’s not chardonnay …
Try a new wine this week!

As much as I love a good chardonnay, nothing quite elevates a summer seafood dish like a crisp, racy, citrusy, unoaked vermentino.  Or a similarly styled verdelho.  They may not be household names in this country—yet—but around the Mediterranean people eat a lot of seafood and much of it is washed down with local wines like these.  This is the type of wine you have on vacation, and wish you could find back home.  The thing is, you can.

Most vermentino is from the area along and near Italy’s western coast, north and south of the famous leaning tower of Pisa.  The island of Sardinia grows a lot of it.  And almost predictably, my all time favorite summer seafood wine is grown in the same area as my favorite seafood restaurant.  Near Pisa is the ancient town of Lucca, and near Lucca is Ponte a Moriano. And at Ponte a Moriano you can find the restaurant, La Mora.

At La Mora, you’ll find plenty of fresh cotze (mussels), vongole (clams) and pesce (fish), prepared with Michelin-starred perfection.  And that’s where I had my first great vermentino experience, recommended by a sommelier to whom I remain appreciative.

I’ve had less of Portugal’s verdelho, but they’re largely in the same tart, unoaked style.  Another fine seafood wine is Spain’s verdejo, as similar in style as in name—not surprisingly, they’re often confused for one another.

As for viognier, it wasn’t many years back that American wine writers were discussing the possibility of it replacing chardonnay as our country’s go to white wine.  It hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t, but its softly dry nature and hints of honeysuckle can be a memorable match for subtle seafood dishes.

Not a lot of these grapes are being grown in California yet, but they are gaining ground.  One winey that blends vermentino, verdelho and viognier together, along with some sauvignon blanc, is Vina Robles, near the Central Coast wine town of Paso Robles.  Very warm summer days are followed by very chilly summer nights, with 50-degree swings in temperature.  This is not uncommon in dry climates, and these Mediterranean grape varieties thrive in it.  Vina Robles WHITE4 (“white wine to the power of four”) is estate-grown, unoaked, and a good match for summertime dining.  It retails for around $15.99.

WHITE4 from Vina Robles combines some of my favorite summertime grape varieties for a crisp, racy, citrusy, dry white wine.  It’s somewhat richer in texture than most of its European counterparts, making it appealing to chardonnay lovers.

Categories: Food