Origin: Tuscany, Italy
Remarkable historical variety, Generally recognised as the first variety in all of Italy to be rewarded with a DOC status in 1966 for the region of San Gimiginano) and mention already in Dante’s purgatory (sequel to Dante’s inferno, written in the early 14th century)
Actual origin of the grape is not yet established, but now it is more or less only grown in San Gimiginano

….ebbe la Santa Chiesa e le sue braccia: dal Torso fu, e purga per digiuno le anguille di Bolsena e la Vernaccia….

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto XXIV

To be honest, he talks about pickling eels in Vernaccia, but all the same (it is still a mentioning)

Grown: San Gimiginano. Not to be confused with Vernaccia di Oristano. a completely unrelated variety with the same (grape) name grown in the Sardinian region of Oristano

Climate: Warm

Soil: Despite its long history, Vernaccia is not really grown outside of San Gimiginano. The reason for that? The soil of San Gimiginano! This particular area was once under sea level, the Ligurian sea covered big parts of Tuscany, and in San Gimiginano, even today you can find traces of that. Many growers might find fossils working their soil. In general the soil is pilocene clay, with many hidden fossils

Vinification: More modern versions might be blended with up to 10% of Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, but the best versions are 100% (or close to) of Vernaccia. Furthermore, there is Vernaccia and there is Vernaccia Riserva where the grapes are more meticulously selected, and where the wine is aged on oak barrels. This process enhances the dept of the wine and brings out more of the inherent personality (if done well, otherwise the oak might just take over)

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG (only white DOCG region in Tuscany)

General Personality:

  • Colour:  Pale straw
  • Aromas: Green fruit, floral, mineral (flint in particular), salinity
  • Taste and Texture: Fresh, crisp acidity, full-bodied, known for a slightly bitter tone on the finish
  • Conclusion: While sometimes disregarded as a bit of a tourist attraction (the town of San Gimiginano in a big tourist hit in Tuscany, and Vernaccia is often brushed of as an everyday wine), Vernaccia is a distinctive variety, full of potential. Often described as a red wine in a white wine dress, which is a very apt description of Vernaccia’s profile. It is no big and bold, but charismatic and deep
  • Future: With Vernaccia, even the unoaked examples can age well I bottle, a few years, but if you have come across a Vernaccia Riserva, do not be afraid to leave it, 8 or maybe even 10 years. You will be in for a nice surprise in the future

Food pairings:

  • General: A wine not to serve too cold. Because, when it is really cold, it tends to become streamlined, but when it gets warmer, more of the personality comes out. Traditional pairings would be seafood of all varieties, particularly seafood with more delicate flavours, like white flaky fish or mussels
  • Obvious pairing: Baked (or fried) Eggplant
    Simple but delicious party starter, and as Vernaccia is an amazing aperitif, it works well with a light starter. Here is a crispy, and non-fried example, but of course you can also go with a fried version. With the salinity in the wine, it does not hurt to ad an extra pinch of salt to the breading.
    Marinara sauce on the side for dipping works, but it is not perfect… Best would be to throw together an Indian raita. Yep, you read right. An Indian raita. A yogurt dip not unlike tzatziki but with more focus the cooling spices. Vernaccia goes well together with green species, they help to enhance the minerality in the Vernaccia (by balancing out the green fruit)
  • On the wild side: Saffron Risotto
    Unexpected dream combination, Vernaccia and Saffron! Both flavours are delicate, but deep, which maybe is why they work so well together, or it might just be that they have been grown side by side in San Gimiginano for generations. Pasta would of course also work, if you want to be more traditional, but why not play it up a bit and make a risotto, preferably with some grilled zucchini on the top!