Cooking Italian is a craftsman’s labour, the work of an Artisan of Flavour.
Recap: Zesty, Acidic and Dry
Serving Temperature: 10-12 °C with food, 8-10 °C as aperitif
Italy has so many gorgeous grapes and such an unique diversity that deciding on a very first entry for this section of the blog should not have been an easy task. However, I have made up my mind quite rapidly and decided on a great love of mine: Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Reason number one: it is an amazing wine, perhaps not as famous as others are but very much – at least in my opinion – up there with the best. Everyone I have introduced to this wine has simply loved it. Is it my favourite white? Possibly.
Reason number two: it was the very first wine to be awarded a DOC status in 1966 – before being recognised DOCG in 1993.
History, Geography and Background
“A wine that kisses, licks, bites, thrusts and stings” (Michelangelo Buonarroti)
Vernaccia is a very old white grape variety which was already acclaimed across Europe in the middle ages. The finest and most popular of Vernacce is with no doubt the Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Although other varieties carry the name Vernaccia (for example those produced in the Marche and Sardinia) it is worth mentioning the grapes of these wines are not related. Reason may be the etymology of the word vernaccia, which probably originated from the Latin vernaculum (=local) and therefore being used to label the local wine in different areas at pretty much the same time.
San Gimignano is a village near Siena, in Tuscany, where original records prove Vernaccia has been grown since at least the early 1200s. By the end of the same century trade routes involved already export to near villages and cities while by the Renaissance Vernaccia was a popular and fine choice amongst the palaces and courts of Italy and abroad.
This wine has of course changed a lot from the one Michelangelo’s words tried to describe centuries ago: we can assume XVI century Vernaccia was definitely harsher and stronger than the one we drink Today, due in particular to the different wine-making techniques used.
Organoleptic properties and food-pairing
Nowadays Vernaccia is straw yellow in colour with hints of feeble green. The appearance tends to develop towards gold with ageing. The nose is composed by a rich bouquet of scents: citrus fruit, broom and minerals. It is a fresh and dry wine, with a lovely bitter almond character (one of the typical characteristics of the grape), lively acidity, good body and long finish. I would not hesitate to include it into the outstanding white wines of the world.
The zesty character and the acidity make it a perfect choice for fish-based dishes but also pasta with cream-based sauces and cheese boards.