What is Verdelho Wine?
Verdelho, a white grape, is one of the main varietals of Portugal. In particular, the Madeira Islands have developed an international reputation by producing fortified wines. Portugal found early success with fortified wines, as the Island of Madeira was a port of call for ships setting sail for the New World. Madeira wines were vital to the supply of Portuguese ships due to their ability to survive long journeys without spoiling.
In Australia, Verdelho is mostly used in blended table wines. In Western Australia, it is often part of the Classic Dry White wine blends with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. There are also many winemakers producing varietal Verdelho wines with success. James Busby introduced the Verdelho variety in the 1830s which is now successfully planted across Australia from Western Australia to Queensland.
Common Verdelho Wine characteristics
Australian Verdelho is a fruity wine. It is sometimes described as ‘tutti-frutti’ but this can be reigned in by avoiding later harvests and winemakers exercising restraint. Australian Verdelho wines are characterised by their oily texture, tropical fruits and honeysuckle, lime and kaffir lime palate.
Pairing food with Verdelho Wine
When it comes to Verdelho and food, pairing is easy. Verdelho is quite a versatile wine and pairs well with shellfish, particularly freshly shucked oysters. The tropical fruitiness of Verdelho also allows it to pair well with spicy Asian dishes.
Notable Verdelho Wine regions
Verdelho grapes are grown across Australia. Some producers of these wines display typical Australia winemaking spirit in championing this underdog varietal. Margaret River and Swan Valley in Western Australia are prolific growers and producers of Verdelho. Brookland Valley is one such well-known winemaker in Western Australia. South Australia produces a range of Verdelho wines with great examples from Chapel Hill in McLaren Vale. The magnificently marmaladey sweet Verdelho by Geoff Hardy is another winner from South Australia.
The hand of the winemaker is apparent in the restraint of the Verdelho produced by Black Wattle. This wine has kicked off its thongs and, with its crisp acidity, has put on a pair of brogues showing that this varietal can be taken seriously. Queensland's tropical abundance creates fruitier Verdelho wines. Summit Estate and Sirromet both produce delicious and accessible examples of Verdelho wines from the Sunshine State.
Madeira is a fortified wine and is named after the Madeira Islands in Portugal where it is made. Madeira-style fortified wines are made in several regions around the world but do not conform naming protections and should not be confused with authentic Madeira wines.
Madeira wines labelled with the Verdelho varietal must contain at least 85% of the grape. There are several styles of fortified wines made on the island. The ‘Finest’ variety being aged for a minimum of three years with exposure to artificial heat is used mostly for cooking. While the Frasquiera or ‘vintage’ wines are aged for a minimum of 20 years. These high-quality wines can last for over a century and were prized for their suitability to warm climates in the time before refrigeration.
The future of Verdelho Wine
With the exception of the highest-quality Madeira, wines made from Verdelho are rarely as nuanced or complex as some of the cult wines of Australia. The joy in Verdelho, however, is not in collectability or big flavours but in its immediacy as well as the freshness and fruitiness of flavour. Verdelho wines are generally unpretentious and fun and suitable to a late Saturday lunch in the sun. The growing appreciation for Verdelho is due to its laid-back nature and suitability to Australian lifestyle from the green edge to the red centre.