Masters of Vermentino: Why You Should Visit Poggio dei Gorleri on the Italian Riviera


Masters of Vermentino: Why You Should Visit Poggio dei Gorleri on the Italian Riviera

16 July 2018

Maybe you have heard of Vermentino, but it is not surprising if you have not. This outstanding white grape is relatively unknown outside of the regions where it grows, but don’t let its lack of fame fool you into thinking it is equally lacking as a wine.

In fact, because it is such a ‘hidden gem’ means that it is possible to find high-quality bottles at a great value. It also means that those who grow it are deeply passionate about, dedicating their life’s work to mastering the challenges of the vines. Poggio dei Gorleri, a family owned and operated winery on the Western Ligurian Riviera, is one such example. Over the past 15 years since the winery’s founding, they have quietly built a reputation as Masters of Vermentino and Pigato. 

Are Vermentino and Pigato the same? 

pigato grapes at poggio dei gorleri Pigato grapes - by Poggio dei Gorleri

Well yes, and no. Yes, in so far as that they are related. You could even go so far as calling them fraternal twins. The more scientific way of saying that is that they are clonal varieties, meaning that while genetically almost identical each variety has developed separately over time creating mutations that render them distinctively different. The most evident of these being that Pigato grapes are speckled, like your nose in the summertime, when fully mature. In fact, the name Pigato comes from the Ligurian word pighe which means spotted or freckled.  But for all of the science, when these luscious grapes are made into wine, there is no confusing them as the same. Vermentino tends to present with higher-acidity and salinity, the herby notes of rosemary and sage that grow abundantly along the coast more persistent. While Pigato is often times more textural and rich in body, showing off spicier aromatic notes while remaining true to its mineral roots. 

Where do they grow? 

vineyards on the Riveria di Ponente in Liguria Vineyards on the Riveria di Ponente - by Poggio dei Gorleri

You will find Pigato and Vermentino planted all along the Ligurian Riviera. However, Pigato is an ancient native variety and is only found in Liguria, most especially in the Rivieria Ponente near the French border. While Vermentino’s roots are more spread across Sardinia, Corsica and other parts of France. Both varieties do best in poorer soils and at higher altitudes, which is what makes the Riviera di Ponente, where Poggio dei Gorleri calls home, such an ideal location. It is here where the craggy Maritime Alps begin to roll into the Apennines, creating almost cliff-like rocky hills that loom over the shimmering Mediterranean, the sea breezes bringing in the salty air (and sometimes even the salty sea) directly into the vineyards. A unique microclimate that leads to unique wines. 

What Makes Poggio dei Gorleri Masters? 

Cycnus pigato by Poggio dei Gorleri Cycnus Pigato - by Poggio dei Gorleri

Beyond a deep passion and dedication to local Ligurian wines, brothers Matteo and Davide Merano founded the winery in 2003 with one goal in mind: to make young and innovative wines that stayed true to the assertive nature of Ligurian wines. This has led them to approach winemaking in a different way from many others in Italy. That way is French. By zooming in on the similarities that Vermentino and Pigato share with Chablis and Sancerre, the brothers have been able to hone in on the characteristics that most distinguish the two Italian varieties.  They have developed a wine style that is focused on the distinctive salinity of Vermentino and minerality of Pigato with a vision for long-ageing. Their Vigna Sorì (Vermentino) or Albium (Pigato) can easily stand the test of time of even 10 to 15 years of ageing. This is an approach that is rare in the world of Italian white wine and elevates their work to a whole new level of mastery.  The very nature of Ligurian wine is to make it out of love and produce something that is enjoyable to drink. Commercial fame is rarely regarded as a marker of success. And rightfully so. The region is small and compact, there just simply isn't the space for large wine cooperatives and tonnages of grapes each season. However, the Merano family stands out from the rest by sticking to their Ligurian roots while simultaneously thinking about their wines in an international context. They are making wines about Liguria, not necessarily for Liguria, because they want everyone to be able to discover this unique area through a bottle of wine. Having come from a completely different industry before opening Poggio dei Gorleri, Matteo and Davide’s success at communicating the characteristics of Vermentino and Pigato to an international crowd are what truly make them Masters.  Try their award-winning Riviera di Ponente Vermentino DOC or Riviera di Ponente Pigato DOC for yourself with a custom Grand Wine Tour of the Ligurian coast.