The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG stands out as one of the primier white wines of Tuscany, which, given how prolific a wine producing region Tuscany is, should be pretty high praise. But, as famous as Tuscany is for it’s red wines (Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, to name a few), the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is it’s only white wine DOCG region (and even this was only gained in 1993). There are certainly many more red DOCG regions than white in Italy as a whole, so it may not be surprising that Tuscany would reflect that imbalance as well, but given that Emilia-Romagna and Lazio, less prolific wine-growing areas that border Tuscany, have two apiece, Tuscany only having one is a little surprising.
However, if you’re only going to have one white wine DOCG region, ideally it would be a pretty prestigious one, and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG competes with just about any other white wine region in the country on that front. It is considered to be among Italy’s oldest and most noble wines, with it’s roots dating back before the Renaissance. Though it only received it’s DOCG status in 1993, this region was given the very first DOC designation when the classification system was created back in 1966. Despite it’s relatively good reputation within Italy, the wine does not hold a lot of weight with the outside wine world. Most wine drinkers are much more familiar with it’s northern counterparts, Soave and Roero for example, than they are with Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The region itself is centered around the Tuscan hill town of San Gimignano, about an hours drive southwest of Florence. The wines produced in this region are made from primarily the Vernaccia grape (at least 90%), and have been traditionally known as the wine that kisses, licks, bites, and stings. Vernaccia can be a confusing grape because the name, or a variation of it, is used to describe grapes grown in different parts of Italy that aren’t actually related to one another. The reason for this is that the name Vernaccia comes from the Italian word Vernaculo, which means common or indigenous (the English word “vernacular” is closely related). Because of that, you will find grapes with local names very similar to Vernaccia in other regions of Italy, such as Marche and Sardinia. However, in most instances when people use the word Vernaccia, it is in reference to the grape that makes Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
This wine is from the Tuscan producer Cantine Gini. It has a nice lemon coloring, pale and shimmering. The nose is light and refreshing, very fresh. It has a mineral quality to it, along with floral notes and a bit of a green aspect to it – some green apple and pear in the background. It is dry with a medium body on the palate, backed by nice, crisp acidity. There is an herbaceous quality to the wine, which goes with the green apple and pear on the nose. There are some other fruit and floral notes as well. It is tart, and though crisp, is not so light as to be overlooked. It has some bitterness on the finish, rounding out with a nice bit of character, thought a bit less so than some of the most classic Vernaccia di San Gimignano’s. In many ways it reminds me of a more southern Italian white wine.