Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is dry white wine made from 90-100% of the Vernaccia di San Gimignano grape grown around the touristy, multi-towered commune of San Gimignano in the north-west of Siena province in Tuscany, Italy. 0-10% other non-aromatic white grapes (eg. Chardonnay, but not Sauvignon Blanc) authorized for Tuscany are permitted. Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG Riserva must age in oak for one year, a stipulation Ian D’Agata (2014) feels can make the wines too oaky. Other wines made in the San Gimignano production zone include San Gimignano Rosso DOC, Chianti DOCG, and Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG.
DOC, DOCG status
Vernaccia di San Gimignano was first granted its DOC in 1966, the first for wine in Italy. In 1993 the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOC was elevated to DOCG status, with the following reasons being given:
- 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, although see Piccabòn);
- iii) the wine has been documented by name since the C13th, the legend being that the vine was brought here from the East by the merchant Perone Peroni, for the vineyards of Pietrafitta;
- iv) the wine comes from a single commune.
History: Vernaccia is mentioned by Dante Alighieri (Purgatorio XXIV) as leading to Pope Martin IV’s gluttony. It was the only wine name-checked by Dante. Vernaccia was also praised by Francesco Redi in his work, “Baccio in Toscana.
Size: The surface area of the Municipality of San Gimignano is about 12,500 hectares, 5,600 of which are given to farming (vineyards, olive groves, cereal crops).
Terroir: The vineyards are predominantly on sloping ground, with variable exposures, altitudes, soil compositions and availability of water. The town lies at 300m. Altitudes range from 67 to 500 metres (220-1,640 feet) above sea level. Most vineyards lie at altitudes of between 200 and 400m above sea level. The highest vineyards belong to Montenidoli (450m, the Triassic vineyard), Fattoria San Donato (400m), and Macinatico (360m).
Soils: The production rules for Vernaccia di San Gimignano stipulate ‘only hilly terrain, with good exposure, located at an altitude not exceeding 500 m a.s.l. is to be considered suitable, and whose soils, of Pliocene origin, are made up of yellow sands and sandy clays.
Mainly yellow-coloured sandstone (tuff) and yellow or grey clays from the Pliocene (6.8 to 1.8 million years old) on marine deposits rich in fossils and often layered over more compact clays present deep down. The soils are strongly characterised by the presence of sand and have almost no heavy stone at all, they are loose and therefore allow vines to put down deep roots. The soils are usually poor in organic substance and are well drained thanks to the sand. It is this sand, tuff, that is the characterising pedological element from the winegrowing-oenological point of view, due to the savoury flavour that it conveys to the wines that originate in it.
The steepness of the slopes and exposures to the sun vary. The zone is roughly halfway between the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and the Apennine mountains to the east. ‘Well exposed hills of light, almost chalky beige to grey soils where calcareous clays and tufa prevail. Warmer slopes towards the Elsa valley [east of San Gimignano] where marine deposits make a difference,’ (Burton Anderson, 1990, p.198).
Climate: Mediterranean climate with rather dry summers, not particularly harsh winters and rainfall concentrated in two periods: April/May and November. Annual rainfall is around 700mm (27 inches) Temperatures vary from -5°C to +37°C. The area benefits from good ventilation all year round and only rarely is it cloaked in fog.
Typical flavours: Apricot, ‘attractively bitter finish’ (Daniel Thomases, 2006), ‘beeswax with age’ (Walter Speller, 2015), bitter almonds, bland, bready, buttery, citrus, creamy, crisp, ‘dry, variable and generally underwhelming’ (Oz Clarke 2015, p.272), 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, 1992).
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 wineries.
Certified organic: Alessandro Tofanari. | Canneta. | Cappellasantandrea. | La Castellaccia. | Cesani. | Collina dei Venti. | Fattoria Poggio Alloro. | Fornacelle di Giusti Marco. | Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara. | Il Palagione. | Lucii Libanio. | Montenidoli. | Mormoraia. | Palagetto. | Panizzi (San Gimignano). | Podere Le Volute. | Poderi Arcangelo. | San Quirico. | Signano. | Tenuta Le Calcinaie. | 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 di Pietrafitta. | Fattoria San Donato. | Fontaleoni. | Guicciardini Strozzi Fattoria Cusona. | Il Lebbio. | La Lastra. | Le Fornaci Azienda Agricola. | Macinatico-Masi. | Massimo Daldin. | Melini. | Poderi del Paradiso. | Rubicini. | San Benedetto. | Sensi Vigne e Vini. | Tenuta la Vigna. | Teruzzi. | Tollena.
Consorzio del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Via di Fugnano, 19
I-53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy
Tel+39 0577 940108 | www.vernaccia.it
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy (Mitchell Beazley, 1990).
Daniel Thomases in the Oxford Companion to Wine 3rd edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW (Oxford University Press, 2006), p.732.
Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014), p.153-5.
Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.74.
Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015).
Richard Baudains, ‘Theme and Variations’, Decanter July 1992, p.54.
Walter Speller in the Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015), p.780.