What is Vernaccia?

Charting New Territory? San Gimignano's Vernaccia di San Gimignano Shakes Up the Foundations

By Elaina Borer
Apr 07, 2020
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Filippo Bartolotta, esteemed wine journalist and co-founder of Le Baccanti Tours, participated in a very special tasting of Vernaccia di San Gimignano on February 18th, part of a series of tastings Bartolotta created with Ernesto Gentili, the much-respected curator of the Italian Guida dei Vini de L’Espresso.  This specific tasting was held to showcase and explore Vernaccia’s considerable potential. The event was hosted by Ian D’Agata, and dared the top-quality Vernaccia producers to test their ranks against recent vintages of renowned Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fum, wines typically described as being expressive of the taste of spring without the warmth (in this case, undesired).   A tough competition, to be sure.

“There have been a lot of innovations and experimentation with Vernaccia recently. Sauvignon Blanc is a powerhouse, but Vernaccia held its own against such a super-aromatic grape,” Bartolotta said. 

“We were very impressed. The Hydra 2006 (Il Palagione) and Santa Margherita 2006 (Panizzi) really stood out,” Bartolotta concluded.

The French producers who participated, Alphonse Mellot (Domaine de la Moussière), Vincent Pinard (Domaine Vincent Pinard), Michel Redde (Domaine Michel Redde et Fils), Didier Dagueneau (Domaine Didier Dagueneau), and Henri Bourgeois (Domaine Henri Bourgeois) were full of praise for the Vernaccias they tasted. 

All producers confessed their unfamiliarity with this Italian varietal, but the tasting certainly showed them Vernaccia is a force to be reckoned with. 

“The Vernaccia and Sauvignon Blanc have a lot in common. They share a minerality, freshness, and the spicy aromas of anise, hazelnut and lime,” Bartolotta clarified. 

This is the third in a series of bold, unusual Vernaccia tastings. The first, held in 2006, was a vertical tasting going back 30 years and showcased without a doubt the wine's tremendous ageing potential. “The participants were blown away,” confirmed Bartolotta. Next was a vertical comparative tasting of Vernaccia vs. top Chablis

We learned that the longer Vernaccia ages, the better it matched up against the Chablis.  The tastings are an example of how Vernaccia is discovering and defining its identity. It is growing with audacity, and earning great respect in doing so.  Take the Silex, for example, which we tasted last in the comparative Sauvignon Blanc tasting,” Filippo elaborated. “It’s the sharpest, cleanest and also dirtiest, naughty-girl wine on the planet. This is a biodynamic wine, a model for what a white should be. It takes guts to compare yourself to the best.”

Join us for the next installation of tastings with Filippo - we have big flavors in store up ahead!  And if you can't wait any longer for the next Tuscan wine tastings, you're in luck:  Filippo's working on tasting his way through the Brunello di Montalcino selections - come check it out here!  

While you're here, be sure to check out another classic Tuscan wine region, the Chianti Classico area.  Buckle up and get ready to explore some of wines of fabulous Tuscany.

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