Vermentino and Verdicchio are the grape varieties adding character to formerly austere Italian white wines.
Verdicchio will be familiar to those of a certain generation who drank it from a fish-shaped bottle during the 1970s and 1980s.
At that time, a firm called Fazi-Battaglia produced large quantities of Verdcchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a very light almost anonymous dry white wine. Verdicchio has been grown for centuries in the Marches, a region that runs along the central eastern coast of Italy.
Experts argue as to whether it is the same grape as Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana. It certainly appears to share the same parentage, but is now established as a variety in its own right, and currently enjoying a new-found status.
In the Marches, Castelli di Jesi has always been the best-known name, but in recent years some of the more interesting wines seem to be coming from Matelica, a smaller region high in the hills. But both have seen a big revival in interest over the last decade or so, and now produce some very interesting wines.
In Italy Verdicchio has a reputation for ageing, largely because of its high acidity. However, just because it lasts doesn’t mean it improves. Although I have tasted a few older wines, I would generally prefer the younger versions.
The vast majority of producers aim to keep the acidity in check and develop the fruit flavours, making for very good wines that can still provide excellent drinking with fish and shellfish.