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The Verdelho Grape

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About Verdelho

(Synonyms: Verdello; incorrectly, Gouveio, Godello.)


Map showing Portugal

Verdelho is a white-wine grape originating in Portugal (though some say that far back it came out of Sicily), where it is still grown, it is but now also a reasonably major grape in Australia. There is also a little starting to come in from South America

For long, Verdelho's fame rested on its importance in the making of a type of Madeira, a fortified wine; the climate of the island of Madeira produced grapes readily suited for such use (though Verdelho plantings on Madeira itself were decimated by the Phylloxera plague of the later 19th century). But Verdelho has also long been vinified as a table wine, though till relatively recently, not a much-noted one on the world stage.

From as early as the 1820s, Australians have been making wine with Verdelho, though generally as a blending component. It was a type well-suited to some of the major climate regions in Australia, and after some ups and downs in their wine industry (very well explained in a recommended article "In Defense of Verdelho" from Faber Vineyards of Australia), the growth in interest in labelled varietals starting there in the 1970s returned attention to Verdelho.

When well made as a dry table wine, Verdelho makes wines that are profoundly aromatic while yet being full-bodied and complex; moreover, a well-made Verdelho is one of those uncommon things, a white that can improve materially with significant bottle age. Mind, a somewhat carelessly made Verdelho can produce (depending on the nature of the vintner's failure) either over-sweet "fat" wines of little character, or over-alcoholic and "hot" wines. The crux is picking the grapes at the right level of maturity: the full varietal flavor—often of nectarines, sometimes of lemon-lime—requires full maturity; but grapes left to hang a little too long have excess sugar, necessarily producing either those sweet flabby types or the high-alcohol ones (depending on how much of the sugar the winemaker let ferment).

So a well-made Verdelho will be fresh, soft, and quite fruity when young, but will age gracefully into a rich, complex, and generally delicious drink (sometimes described as "oily", a trait it thus shares with, for example, Riesling). And it can be a great bargain—when you can find it at all. This is a type well worth getting to know.

Factoid: Verdelho does not, despite some claims, seem to be at all related to the Godello grape, despite a comical chain of name confusions (also involving the Gouveio grape) that cloud the issue. Wine-grape nomenclature is a wild and wooly business.

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Some Descriptions of Verdelho Wines

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Some Verdelhos to Try

(About this list.)

Wine Searcher reports well over half a thousand matches for “Verdelho”, so one might think this list easy to make. Nope. As always, we slice at the raw list with three knives: quality, price limit, and scope of availability. Since only a very few of the fine Australian bottlings make it to the U.S. (and those that do, only to a paucity of merchants), we ended up with a very short final list.

Incidentally, when looking at listings of Verdelho, make sure you’re not seeing a bottle of Madeira, as much Verdelho goes to the making of that fortified wine.

Ashbrook Verdelho

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Reviews” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks.

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For a Splurge

We found no available Verdelho wines better enough than what is listed above as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Saturday, 30 October 2021, at 11:26 pm Pacific Time.