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Verdelho

The Verdelho variety has been cultivated in Portugal since at least the 1400s. It is one of the grapes long used in the making of Madeira. There is also a purple variety, Verdelho Tinto, planted on that island. There is some speculation that the same variety is planted in the Douro Valley, where it is called Gouvieo. The grape has been used there to make both dry table wines and sweet, fortified wines.

Since the late nineteenth century European outbreak of Phyloxera, there are very few Verdelho vines planted in Portugal, however. In fact, authorities on the island of Madeira had to implement a plan to revive it there, beginning in the 1970s. A grape known as Verdello, planted in Italy's Umbria region, may well be the same variety, although this is yet unproven.

Western Australia, and South Australia and New South Wales to some extent, have had success with Verdelho as a dry table wine, although less than 300 acres are planted altogether "down under".

Verdelho grapes are small, yellow-gold, thick-skinned, hard berries that are high in acidity. It is an early-ripening variety and yields can be high.

The table wine produced from Verdelho tend to be tart and lemony, crisp and refreshing, with relatively good body. Barrel fermentation and oak aging can add richness and complexity. The character can vary from herbaceous, when grown in cooler vineyards or picked earlier, to tropical fruit, when coming from warmer vineyards or picked fully mature. Over-ripening may produce high alcohol and too much extraction or maceration can make the wine coarse. Unless treated in oak, its aging potential is questionable.

Jim LaMar

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