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VERDELHO is not an Italian sauce. It’s not an exotic perfume or a new Audi. Verdelho is a grape variety that shows off its talents throughout the vineyards of the Swan Valley. Some of the best examples of verdelho I have tasted have come from Swan Valley fruit.

The Talijancich family has been producing a fantastic example of verdelho for a very long time.

And, with Houghton’s Moondah Brook leading the way in a more commercial style, there are some great wines made outside of the Swan Valley too, with Chestnut Grove from Manjimup and Willespie from Margaret River at times producing some stunning wines.

During one of their many voyages of discovery during the 15th century (around the 1450s, in fact) some English adventurers encountered a Spanish fleet among the islands that spread out from Portugal. To cut a quarter short, through some kind of inter-armada trade they ended up with a wine that was sherry-like and made from a grape called vidonia which, yes, you guessed it, is now called verdelho.

The first grapes are said to have sprung up from vines planted on the holiday destination of Tenerife.

Verdelho is one of the major grape varieties grown on the island of Madeira and throughout Portugal. However, we can thank the yanks for this, as it proved more profitable to grow sugar cane in Brazil, which up until this time had been one of Madeira’s major crops. The good folk on the island didn’t take long to work out that it made sense to work on grape production instead of trying to compete with the Americas and sugar. So into full-time wine production they headed.

While the history of verdelho is interesting, it can’t compare with sinking your tongue into the succulent nectars verdelho can produce. Verdelho has adapted well to the climate and soils within the Swan Valley.

The variety copes well with the heat and, importantly, maintains an acidity level that shows through in the freshness of many of the better examples. In some cases the acidity also enables Verdelho to age gracefully.

There is a host of producers in the valley who are doing great things with verdelho and, if you are heading off to explore the region during the Spring in the Valley Festival weekend, then make an effort to have a taste of some different examples of verdelho wines around the various wineries. There are a number of different styles.

Lamonts Verdelho 2001

This is a very serious verdelho, with masses of flavour and striking acidity. This wine will be around for a few years to come. It has plenty of ripe pineapple and stone fruit flavours. It shows you what exciting wine you can produce from verdelho.

Moondah Brook Verdelho 2001

Zoom, zoom, zoom. This one has plenty of fresh and vibrant fruit that will have you whistling a merry tune. You will find lush pineapple and melon fruits in abundance on the palate. There is rounded acidity that leaves a fresh and zippy finish.

Jane Brook James Vineyard Verdelho 2000

Another serious look at verdelho. Again, you find a veritable fruit salad of flavours enticing you into this wine.

There is almost a honeysuckle touch to the aromas that are awash with ripe melon, citrus and stone fruits. The palate is soft with integrated acidity and ready to enjoy right now.

Sittella Verdelho 2000

This is a well put-together wine that shows some enticing aromas that seem to lead your mouth into a palate that is alive with flavour. The palate weight and acidity balance seem to marry mid palate and you are left with long and refreshing finish. Worth seeking out.

Westfield Verdelho 1992

I had to search back though my notes to find this absolute ripper from the Kosovichs. It displays the qualities that show the remarkable aging qual-ities of this variety. There are developed characters on the nose that show a few floral notes.

The palate, while developed with age, still has plenty to offer. The acidity and fruit are structured through the wine, with a still lively lingering finish.

Talijancich Verdelho 1997

Over a number of years James Talijancich has made verdelho his flagship white wine. Each year a tasting of three-year old verdelho from around the country is held, with the home wine standing tall each year. The 1997 won the SGIO Trophy in its class and is a work of art. The wine has attractive melon, honeysuckle, and pineapple flavours, with a complex and lengthy finish. Might be hard to track down but worth a few phone calls.

To clarify a case of mistaken identity in last week’s Gusto Vino. The WA Wine Press Club Award for the best Western Australian wine of the 2001 Perth Royal Show was won by the 2000 Forest Hill Chardonnay, not Houghton’s GI Cabernet as indicated. Apologies for the error.

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