As I write this, I am sipping springtime from a glass, an elegant white wine that calls to mind flowers and fresh herbs, the first local strawberries of late May and early June, followed by the melons and pears of late summer.
The wine is from Italy, the elegant and nuanced 2004 Vermentino di Toscana from Campo al Mare. This is the vermentino grape, perhaps best known as the main white variety of Sardinia, but also grown elsewhere, including Tuscany, where Campo al Mare produces a superb wine from it.
Campo al Mare is a new label from a relatively new estate run by Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, father and son. If the Folonari name rings a bell it may be because of the inexpensive, big-production Folonari wines that have been a staple for years on American wine store shelves.
But don’t confuse their vermentino with anything that may be mass-produced. With a suggested price of $17 (you may find it for less), the wine has a decidedly small-production quality, showing good complexity and dimension. Beyond the components I mentioned above, there is a mineral presence and touches of citrus and honey on the long finish.
Straw colored, this fresh and vivid wine is made without oak and contains five percent sauvignon blanc, which is clearly compatible when blended with vermentino. I would recommend it with any number of lighter foods, especially herbed fish and chicken dishes. It’s also great to sip as an aperitif and will be a hit at spring and summer parties.
You’ll notice, by the way, that the wine is labeled “Indicazione Geografica Tipica.” IGT wines (for Typical Geographic Indication) are somewhat equivalent to the French vins de pays, or “country wines,” in that they fall outside the strict designation system that governs, among other things, origin of grapes and just what grapes can be used in a wine. In this case the vermentino grapes come from the Tuscan zones of Bolgheri, Suvereto and the upper Maremma and thus the wine cannot be given the more exclusive “Bolgheri” designation.
In terms of quality, this is not an issue, at least not with this wine. There is nothing generic about Campo al Mare’s Vermentino di Toscana. It’s both interesting and easy to drink, which is just what I look for in a wine.
Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch