The world is home to literally thousands of grape varieties, yet our supermarket shelves and home wine racks see just a small proportion of these. Ever tasted Viosinho? No, me neither. It's a Portuguese white wine grape. What about Narince? No, me neither. In this case it's a Turkish white wine grape.
What about Verdil? No? Well, in this case, I have. It's a Spanish white grape which is on the verge of dying out. And I'm here to help encourage you to Save The Grape!
I first tried it in Valencia in a blend with Viognier. I was intrigued then by this grape, and was delighted to find it stocked reasonably widely in the UK by Oddbins. When one considers there are only 50 hectares planted with this grape in the world, compared to the estimate of 80,000 hectares worldwide planted with Sauvignon Blanc, it's simply amazing to find it anywhere but it's homeland, let alone online and in many of our high streets. Think of it as exclusivity at an affordable price. It may even be worthy of a festive buy for those difficult to please wine buffs. At least it may be new to them.
This Valencian Verdil (Casa Lluch: £8.25 13% abv) is also organic, with it's ecological and biodiversity claims stamped firmly (in Spanish) on the back label and a sustainability stamp on it's natural cork.
In the mouth, this is a hugely pleasing wine, it starts off feeling light, but the body builds and there is a silky texture like a Viognier by the finish. The acidity is pleasing but not at the high end of white wines - so this won't wash away the flavours of any fish dish you pair this with. I'd suggest something like monkfish wrapped in Serrano ham to bring out the best in this delight, but it's also fine as just a tipple on it's own. I found it worked perfectly with some almonds and hazelnuts as an aperitif. So much the better for your festivities if you can get some Marcona Almonds - one of Spain's other regional delights.
With such amazing flavours and versititly, there's no reason that Verdil should be on the verge of extinction. One of my current favourite varieties, Viognier, had almost died out in the 1970s and is now seeing a new world resurgence as well as providing some spectacular French wines. There were only 14 hectares (mostly in the village of Condrieu) of Viognier in 1968, but now the world has around 12500 hectares planted with this luxurious white.
Can we do the same for Verdil? Maybe, if you all go out and buy a bottle today. Even if we can't make it into a new fashion icon, we should certainly take advantage of it while we still have it.
Save the Grape!