Ayama Wines plants first vermentino in SA!

No free meal! The planting of the vermentino was celebrated in true Italian fashion, with good food and good Ayama wine!

It is often said that the Cape’s winelands have a Mediterranean climate, and then the question is asked: “Why then aren’t there more wine grape varieties from the Mediterranean countries planted in the Cape?”


The answer is simple, wine growers tend to stick to what works. But innovation is required in such a highly competitive market, and this is where a new generation of wine growers come into play, viticulturists and winemakers who aren’t scared to push the envelope, so to speak, and try new things.


Attilio and Michela Dalpiaz of the farm Slent, the home of Ayama Wines, are two such people. This Italian couple fell in love with South Africa about a decade ago and decided to settle in the Paarl region where they bought the farm Slent. The eye-catching Ayama wine label was created and they started turning Slent into a wine estate to be proud of. There’s lots of work still to be done on the farm, but keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground!


Their latest venture is to try their hands at vermentino, a light-skinned wine grape variety, primarily found in Italian wine. It is widely planted in Sardinia, in Liguria on the Italian west coast primarily under the name Pigato, to some extent in Corsica, in Piedmont under the name Favorita, and in increasing amounts in Languedoc-Roussillon. The grapes are amber-yellow and hang in pyramidal bunches. The vines are often grown on slopes facing the sea where they can benefit from the additional reflected light. The Vitis International Variety Catalogue now gives Italy as its origin.


CAPTION: Michela Dalpiaz, Augusto Fabbro and Attilio Dalpiaz in celebratory mood. And they have more than enough reason to celebrate!

The most famous wine made from vermentino is probably the DOCG Vermentino di Gallura (and Vermentino di Gallura Superiore) which is produced in the province of Olbia-Tempio in the north of Sardinia. The grape is said to have been cultivated in this part of Gallura, often under the name Arratelau, since the fourteenth century. Elsewhere on the island the grape is used for a variety of white wines, including sweet and sparkling variants.

But back to Attilio and Michela and Ayama Wines in the Voor Perdeberg where the very first vermentino vines have just been planted. This follows a six-year wait for the six imported buds to be propagated and cleared by the authorities as ready for use in South Africa.



CAPTION: The vermentino workshop and tasting was a serious affair, but the seriousness didn't last long ... fortunately!


“We decided on a clone from Sardinia after lots of deliberation with one of Italy’s best-known viticulturalists, Augusto Fabbro,” explains Michela, Ayama’s charismatic winemaker. Dr Fabbro was present on the day of the first planting to see his brainchild being born in a new country and on a new continent.


“Vermentino is a perfect match for our terroir, which is hot and windy and features mostly clay soils with sandy areas from disintegrated granite,” continues Michela. “The berries and bunches are large and the grapes are late-ripening, all of which fit in perfectly with the existing varietiess on the farm and the harvesting schedule. I also know and love the variety as it produces aromatic white wines which can handle wood and gives you a beautifully powerful wine.”


According to Johan Wiese of Voor Groenberg Nurseries near Wellington who was responsible for the propagation of this brand-new variety from the original plant material, it’s always a huge privilege to be part of a totally new venture like this. “It’s good for South Africa to bring in and test new varieties and in that way broaden our cultivar choices, and we look forward with excitement to seeing the eventual results in the bottle,” he says.


The planting of the very first vermentino vines was preceded by a workshop on the variety and a formal tasting of four wines from Sardinia, the Cala Reale – Sella & Mosca 2013 (Vermentino Di Sardegna DOC), Canayli – Cantine di Gallura 2013 (Vermentino di Gallura DOCG SUPERIORE), Monteoro – Sella & Mosca 2013 (Vermintino Di Gallura DOCG Superiore) and Genesi – Cantine di Gallura 2013 (Vermentino Di Gallura DOG Superiore).


The overall impression? “A wonderfully aromatic white wine that will complement the right dishes with distinction. Although big, it is also a delightful wine to enjoy on its own, chilled.”


So now we wait, but also look forward to the first Ayama bottling of the very first vermentino in South Africa. Patience is a virtue. Yeah, right!