Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A Vermentino 3 Ways

The 2009 whites are at long last all safely in bottle. I certainly saved the best for last by finishing off the stunning 2009 vintage with my very own special Vermentino Un Vent de Folie.

This is a very special wine – a real winemakers wine – as it combines inspiration, creativity, winemaking skill and sheer graft. I first tasted the exquisite Vermentino grape whilst in northern Corsica last June and after quizzing the local winemakers about vineyard ripeness and winemaking techniques, I decided that I had to make one myself!

However getting grapes out of Corsica is virtually impossible so I started my search for this very special grape in the diverse region of the Languedoc in the south of France. I thought I would never find any but my hard detective work finally paid off and I discovered a superb vineyard in the forgotten hills north of Beziers.

Vermentino is a very difficult grape to work with. Many vineyards are planted on unsuitable soils and severely over cropped meaning the resulting wine often ends up in the vast pool of quaffing white wines of the Languedoc. Although with a good eye for vineyard site, some good detective work, lots of driving, lots of berry tasting, some crop thinning, patience and clever winemaking, I was confident I could pull it off. I had to as this was going to be the white version of my super high quality Un Vent de Folie red; pressure was on!

I started with the slow task of carefully tasting the berries in each vineyard before I finally discovered 3 different vineyard parcels that I believed would give me the base for my from which to work from.

I decided that I was going to treat each vineyard very differently in the cellar and match each with a winemaking technique to bring out the best from each parcel of vines with the vision of blending all three together to make the perfect wine!

The riper and fuller bodied vineyard was given 7 hours skin contact to give some tannin ready for the 300 litre new French oak hogsheads barrels. It was then fermented with wild natural yeast and put through the secondary malo lactic fermentation (where malic acid is converted to lactic acid) to give real richness, spice and mid palate weight.

The second, more acidic and fresher vineyard, was pressed clean, settled, removed from the sediment immediately. It was fermented in a cold temperature controlled stainless steel vat to preserve the zesty fruit and acidity, so it could be what winemakers call the backbone of the final blend.

The third and final vineyard was the most balanced and complex of all. I treated this like the Corsicans but also adding a hint of Burgundian winemaking that I had learnt some years ago. The wine was made in old barrels, so as not to give oak flavour but to preserve the natural fruit, using the unique barrel environment for roundness, balance and ageing potential.

After 6 months of careful patient winemaking and daily barrel tasting I can finally announce that the wine is finished and that’s my ‘Vermentino 3 Ways'!

Libby and I tried the first bottle this weekend and I matched fresh parsley and oregano marinated monkfish wrapped in sage and Parma ham, accompanied with a rocket and caramelised shallot salad. The result? Well, I was secretly rather pleased with myself indeed and Libby rather liked it too!

I hope you will try this wine and find everything I experienced but in a bottle!


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