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The Vermentino Wine Competition in Sardinia

Vermentino Wine Competition Sardinia

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In October of 2017, we were invited to the Concorso Enologico Nazionale Vermentino (Vermentino Wine Competition) in Olbia, Sardinia. It was the first Vermentino Wine Competition held in Sardinia, and the judging panel included people from Denmark, England, France, Poland, USA, and—of course—Italy.

Sardinia had been on our to-visit list since the beginning of our round-the-world trip in May 2015. So when the organizer, Mario Bonamici, invited us to judge at the event, we jumped at the opportunity. The official program spanned three days: dinner on the first evening, wine competition on the second day, and vineyard visits and gala dinner on the third day.

The first day when we arrived in Cagliari, we visited a wine bar and shop called Sabores / Sapori Di Sardegna (refer to 1:48 in the video below)—best known for its excellent selections of minimal-intervention wines, artisanal salumi, and cheeses from Sardinian producers. The next day, before making our way to the competition’s venue, we had lunch at Stella Marina di Montecristo (refer to 1:05 in the video below), which offered only one menu: a five-course seafood lunch with wine, for €30. The highlight of the meal was the Fregola con I Frutti di Mare, a type of pasta that is made of semolina and served in a seafood-tomato broth.

Concorso Enologico Nazionale Vermentino

The official program and competition commenced on the third day of our trip, at the cooperative Cantina del Vermentino in the village of Monti. The judging panel was split into three groups. Around 150 Vermentino wines were assessed by the 15-people panel. Many of the wines we tasted in the competition were of good quality; a handful were outstanding. But as it is with all wine competitions, there remain other excellent wines that did not participate.

After several hours of tasting and judging, Pro Loco di Monti prepared a feast for the attendees. The meal included lamb cooked under the bell and suckling pig cooked on a spit. Those dishes required hours of slow cooking, and we were impressed that they were made on the spot and served warm. Many of the judges and media members raved about the high-quality food. Besides the quality, we were amazed by the showmanship and how an inconspicuous “lunch break” at a wine competition turned out to be a valuable lesson in local gastronomy. In fact, throughout the three-day program, we noticed the obvious effort put into organizing every meal, which often consisted of wholesome, authentic Sardinian food.


 

The Vineyards of Vermentino di Gallura DOCG

The day after the Concorso Enologico Nazionale Vermentino, the judges and media team went on a trip to the vineyards of Vermentino di Gallura, the only DOCG in Sardinia. Our first stop was the Museo del Vino located on top of the Berchidda hilltown. Our favorite feature of the museum was the large posters depicting local grape varieties and denominations of Sardinia. The museum also had a well-stocked tasting room featuring producers from all over the island.

Quite a view from the wine museum.

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After the museum, we visited the vineyards of three producers: Unmaredivino, San Consorzio San Michele, and Tenute Aini. All three producers talked about how it hadn’t rained since January. The Sardinian laws allow emergency irrigation, which many producers had to utilize in 2017.

Following the vineyard visits, we had lunch at Tenute Aini. It seemed as if the entire village came out to join us. One man kept opening bottles of his semi-sweet Pinot Bianco sparkling wine for us to taste. It had no label, and we were told it was a wine he made exclusively for his family and friends.

Concorso Enologico Nazionale Vermentino Wine Competition Sardinia

The afternoon was everything we pictured about Sardinia—full of laughter, wine, ricotta, and other gastronomic delights. We had our favorite dish of the whole trip during this lunch: a deep-fried Ravioli stuffed with meat and tomato sauce. Take a look at the photo below by Fabien Lainé.

The evening event was the Gran Gala Dinner, which was open to the public. The ballroom of the Geovillage Resort and Hotel was filled with the wines that participated in the Vermentino Wine Competition. It was a great opportunity for the judges to retaste the wines that were served blind in the competition.
 

Thoughts on Vermentino

Overall, we walked away with a good impression of Vermentino and a better understanding of the grape. Here are our initial thoughts:

  1. Vermentino can benefit a lot from sur lie aging, which offers size, texture, and complexity. Without extended lees contact and bâtonnage, the wine can be refreshing and pleasant but often one-dimensional.
  2. Judicious use of oak seems like a rather elusive thing among the examples that we tried. We didn’t get to taste many oaked Vermentinos, and based on our small sample size, oak tends to overpower the innate clarity and citrus bite of the grape.
  3. Vermentino can taste drastically better after short-term aging in the bottle. We tasted a few examples from the 2013 and 2014 vintages; all the wines gained more depth and focus in flavors.
  4. There are unmistakenly distinct differences in the wines depending on where the Vermentino grapes are grown.

While we found many enjoyable Vermentinos and a few good ones, there are none that we would consider “transcendent”. Hopefully, we will make it back to Sardinia in the near future and taste more examples. Two wines that we’ll be hunting down during our next trip are the Capichera’s Vermentino di Gallura Vign’Angena and Stefano Legnani’s “Loup Garou” Vermentino.

Overall, the 2017 Concorso Enologico Nazionale Vermentino was a success, and we look forward to being a part of the team again in the future.
 

Exotic Wine Travel’s Picks

Here are some of our favorite Vermentino examples. You can scroll through the Instagram feed below to see the wine labels.

 

  • Tenute Casteani, Serìn, Vermentino, 2016 – Maremma Toscana DOC

The Tenute Casteani’s “Serìn” Vermentino has an intensely saline aroma. It’s light on the palate with flavors of white peach and lime and a hint of fresh herbs. A wine that calls for oysters and sunshine. This wine received a bronze medal in the competition.

  • Cantina Unmaredivino, Bianco Smeraldo, 2015 – Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG

Find or Buy at Wine-Searcher.

The Cantina Unmaredivino’s “Bianco Smeraldo” is a wine that will please many palates. Round in the mouth with the body built up by lees contact and a touch of residual sugar (the wine is still dry). Tropical fruit flavors complicated by lime and white flower. It’s easy to drink and finishes with good clarity, breadth, and bitter-nut persistence. This wine received a gold medal in the competition.

  • Cantina Olianas, Olianas, Vermentino, 2016 – Vermentino di Sardegna DOC

Find or Buy at Wine-Searcher.

Certified-bio Cantina Olianas crafted the “Olianas” Vermentino in a mix of steel tank, amphora, and barrel. Bright with focused citrus fruit, white peach, apple, yogurt, and fresh green herbs. It’s round on the palate, with ripe but not excessively fruity flavors. The wine closes tight with a touch of salinity on the finish. This wine received a bronze medal in the competition.

Watch: Exotic Wine Travel Tasting Olianas Vermentino 2016

  • Cantina Li Duni, Renabianca, 2016 – Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG

Not your typical Sardinian Vermentino, the fruit for this wine comes from ungrafted vines grown in sand dunes near the sea. It has an insane amount of salinity, which is brightened by notes of lime, white grapefruit, and Mediterranean herbs. This wine received a bronze medal in the competition.

  • Cantine Sardus Pater, Lugore,  2016 – Vermentino di Sardegna DOC

Find or Buy at Wine-Searcher.

The Sardus Pater expresses harmonized flavors of lime, nectarine, and white flower. On the palate, it’s refined and round, making the mouthfeel rather serious. The finish is powered by crisp acidity and a flinty quality. This wine received a bronze medal in the competition.

  • Consorzio San Michele Superbia 2015 – Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG

Find or Buy at Wine-Searcher.

Check out our article on this wine in this edition of “As Drunk By Exotic Wine Travel.”

 

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

EXOTIC WINE TRAVEL
EXOTIC WINE TRAVEL
Matthew & Charine. Explorers of the lesser-known wine regions and exotic wines.
https://exoticwinetravel.com/

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