VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO DOCG is a dry white wine from around the touristy, multi-towered township (‘comune’) of San Gimignano in the NW part of the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy.

DOC, DOCG STATUS

The DOC was first granted in 1966, the first for wine in Italy. In 1993 the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOC was elevated to DOCG status for the following reasons: 

  • i) Vernaccia di San Gimignano could prove that it was unique;
  • ii) this strain of the Vernaccia grape is grown nowhere else in Italy (it seems);
  • iii) the wine has been documented by name since the C13th;
  • iv) the wine comes only from one commune.

TERROIR | Altitudes range from 67 to 500 metres (220-1,640 feet) above sea level. Soils are mainly yellow-coloured sandstone and yellow or grey clays from the Pliocene (6.8 to 1.8 million years old) rich in maritime fossils. The steepness of the slopes and exposures to the sun vary. The zone is is roughly halfway between the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Appennine mountains to the east. Annual tainfall is around 700mm (27 inches).

THE BLEND | The wine is made from 90-100% Vernaccia, plus 0-10% other non-aromatic white grapes (eg. Chardonnay) authorized for Tuscany.

VINTAGES | 

2018 | 2018 720ha produced 39,600hl, which is average in volume but over 25% more than in 2017. The 2018 vintage was a return to normal after the recent erratic years: it was cold at the right time, it rained enough to restore water reserves (abundantly in the first seven months of 2018, when 586.5 mm of rain fell compared to 532.42mm in the whole of 2017). For the producers this was a challenge. Spring and summer recorded average temperatures with dry heat and refreshing rains. Harvest bagan from 11th September. Average yields. The 2018 Vernaccia wines have lower alcohol levels compared to recent years.

2017 | The 2017 vintage produced 31,651 hl of Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOC from 720 hectares (1,778 acres). The 2017 growing season was defined by two climatic events. Winter was cold, especially so in January when average temperatures were half those of the previous two years. However, winter was also dry, and this, coupled with hit, sunny weather in March brought budburst forward. Shoot growth began in the last ten days of March, 15 days ahead of the norm. On 19th-20 April 2017 a sharp drop in temperature caused crop losses of up to 30-40% in the worst cases, particularly in vineyards on lower-lying sites. Dry weather in May allowed affected vineyards to a second chance to produce vegetative growth although with fewer flowers and thus potential grapes. Sunny and very dry weather followed, with only one rain storm of note on 8th August. The result was yields were 26% lower than in 2016. The 2017 Riserva winds display higher that usual alcohol levels. 

2016 | 2016 was a very good year with a regular growing season. The wines have balanced acidity.

2015 | 730 hectares (1,800 acres) produced 41,000hl of wine, 9% lower compared to 2014. Very hot in June and the beginning of August. Then alternate periods of rain and sun, with cool nights. Harvest began in the third week of September. Potentially promising. /

2013 | One of the best vintages. Hot without being torrid. Rain fell exactly when needed. No hydric stress. Sunny and cool harvest, slow maturation. 

2012 | Very dry growing season. 2011 The first half of the growing season until mid-summer was cool, rainy. From mid-August the weather turned very hot. Wines made using skin contact tend to show marmalade-like flavours. / 2009 768 hectares (1,900 acres) in production. / 2003 Very hot. Thick-skinned grapes with high sugars. Fat-tasting wines with high levels of alcohol. 2002 Very wet. Hard to find grapes unaffected by rot. / 1990 Around 400 hectares (988 acres) produced around 40,000hl of Vernaccia in 1990. / 1980 Wine production was around 26,000hl in 1980. 

COMMON TASTING TERMS FOR THIS WINE | Apricot, ‘attractively bitter finish’ (Daniel Thomases), ‘beeswax with age’ (Walter Speller), bitter almonds, bland, bready, buttery, citrus, creamy, crisp, ‘dry, variable and generally underwhelming’ (Oz Clake 2015, p272), flinty, floral, full-bodied, green apple, herby, lemon oil, lemon peel, lime, liquorice, nutty, orange peel, pale, phenolic, refreshing, salty/saline, spritzy, tangy, varnish, ‘violets that recall Sangiovese’ (Richard Baudains).

FOOD PAIRINGS | Locally the typical food for Vernaccia is wild rabbit, or chicken or fish.

MARKETS | 2019 In 2019 the Consorzio said that 42% of all sales in Italy were in San Gimignano itself, 19% of which was via direct sale from the winery itself. 

VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO WINERIES

CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC 

CERTIFIED ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC PRACTICES 

CERTIFIED ORGANIC | Alessandro Tofanari. / Canneta. / Cappellasantandrea. / La Castellaccia. / Cesani. / Collina dei Venti. / Fattoria Poggio Alloro. / Fornacelle. / Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara. / Lucii Libanio. / Montenidoli. / Mormoraia. / Palagetto. / Podere Le Volute. / Poderi Arcangelo. / San Quirico. / Signano. / Tenuta Montagnani.

NO CERTIFICATION | Agricoltori del Chianti Geografico. / Cantine Guidi. / Casa alle Vacche. / Casale Falchini. / Castello di Montalto. / Cecchi. / Fattoria Abbazia di Monte Oliveto. / Fattoria di Fugnano e Bombereto. / Fattoria di Pancole. / Fattoria San Donato. / Fontaleoni. / Guicciardini Strozzi. / Il Lebbio. / Il Palagione. / La Lastra. / Macinatico – Masi. / Massimo Daldin. / Panizzi. / Poderi del Paradiso. / San Benedetto. / Tenuta la Vigna. / Tenuta Le Calcinaie. / Teruzzi

CONTACT

Consorzio del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Via di Fugnano, 19 – I-53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy / +39 0577 940108 / www.vernaccia.it

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Daniel Thomases in the Oxford Companion to Wine 3rd edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW (Oxford University Press, 2006), p732.

Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015).

Richard Baudains, ‘Theme and Variations’, Decanter July 1992 p.54 by Richard Baudains

Walter Speller in the Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015), p780.