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Getting to know Vernaccia
Mar 02, 2015

Getting to know the Vernaccia of San Gimignano

San Gimignano
February 16, 2015
Tuscany, Italy

"Vernaccia is like an island of white in a sea of red...."
~Nicola Guidi

The tasting, hosted by the Consorzio Della Demoninazione San Gimignano, was one part of a week of Anteprime Toscane - a tour of the winemaking regions within Tuscany.

A sit-down comparative of the Vernaccia of San Gimignano and the white wines of Burgundy’s Cote Chalonnaise was held in the village center, Palazzo Comunale Piazza del Duomo.
(Above right: San Gimignano, photo courtesy of Consorzio della Deomenazione San Gimignano)
The tasting was led by Armando Castagno from Rome, a great admirer and connoisseur of the wines of Burgundy and of course, Tuscany.

Castagno explained the marl soils in the San Gimignano region were similar to those in Burgundy.
In a blind tasting he hoped to illuminate those similarities in a blind tasting.
Despite the similarities in soil composition, he acknowledged the aspects are completely different in each region.

San Gimignano(Right: Comparative tasting in San Gimignano Palazzo Comunale Piazza del Duomo. Photo courtesy of Consorzio della Demoninazione San Gimignano)

Details about Vernaccia di San Gimignano:

►Vernaccia is well-known in Italy and respected as a white. It is unique to this region despite sharing a name with the variety from other regions.
DOC/DOCG: The first established Denomenazione di Origine Controllata in Italy - 1966. The DOCG was awarded in 1993.
The weather: Mediterranean. Mild, dry summers average annual rainfall - with much typically falling in November.
Geological aspects: 3.5 million year old soils, (young) sandy-clay and clayey-sand, layered with gravel, terra fossa and “ramsa” (spelling) and clay shales and grey limestones with “calcare” grey calcium carbonate and alkaline soils. The region has a total of 1900 hectares and under vine, 700 hectares in the appellation dedicated to Vennacia di San Gimignano. There are 170 wineries, a total of 70 producers bottle under their own label.Vernaccia grapesThe altitude of the region is an average of at 320m above sea level. The lowest being 67m and the highest 629m. But like any other DOCG in Italy, no vineyards are allowed over 500m.
Typical characteristics: bright straw colour. Is often shy and closed with notes of yellow flowers (broom), mineral, cyprus or pine and saline flecked finish, which comes through with very good persistent and delicacy.
(Right: Vernaccia grapes. Photo courtesy of Consorzio Della Denomenazione San Gimignano)
Variations: A young or fresh Vernaccia is known as “annata” (of the year). The Riserva DOCG wines have stricter controls of yields and restrictions are closely monitored. Riserva wines must be aged 12 months minimum. The addition of oak aging is a modern treatment.
Regarded: It is also considered one of main sources of long lived white wines in Italy because of its spontaneous acidity/freshness and salinity.
Consozio: Established in 1972. 85% of wine must be of the Vernnacia grape variety. Other varieties allowed are Chardonnay and Trebbiano, Sauvingnon Blanc and other low turpene “non-aromatic” varieties.
Vineyards: In 2012 the bio (organic) district (11th in Italy) was set up. Now 25% total (31 producers) are certified organic, those numbers are increasing continuously.

Wine 1
Nose: mineral and herbal with straw an lemon, a shy nose restrained not very fruity but crunchy, smoke and undergrowth. Palate: mineral focus with lemon rind and dried floral flavours with some phenolic finish.
Correct = Vernaccia 90% (% each Sauvignon Blanc & Riesling) up to 44 year-old vines.
Wine: Pedere Canneta 2011Montenidoli Vernaccia si San Gimignano

Wine 2
Nose: mineral, smoke and very limestone to me, stony not lemony or piney or resiny. Weightier than last wine, very focused mineral and then the citrus comes in on the palate. Clean, phenolic, racy acidity. Finish is some saline and some fine.
Correctly guessed = Chalonnaise. From Bouzeron. 100% Aligote 28-60 year-old vines at 300m. Stainless vinified, partial 30% oak and rest in stainless.
Wine: Domaine Aubert et Pamela De Villaine, 2012

Wine 3
Some nice Carmel-type notes with honey and golden fruits, dough and hazelnut. Palate: creamy, weighted and golden fruits layered with citrus. Good complexity on the palate focused mineral and acidity. Textural and youthful with an almost white peppery character with zest of lemon. good length and
Correctly guessed = Chalonnaise. From Givrey. 50% new wood 30% old wood rest stainless over the course of 1 year
Wine: Domaine Joblot Givry Blanc En Veau, 2013

Wine 4
Racy nose, resins and baking yeasts, very closed at this time but whiffs of dried flowers. Tight. Palate: Racy and resinous, almost assertive acidity - but not overly so. Nice mineral, saline finish
Correctly guessed = Vernnacia 100%. Vines 5-16 years-old, 200-250m above sea level, certified organic. Cement aged.
Wine: San Quirico, 2013

Wine 5
Sweet fruits, more than others, fresh and juicy. Floral and spicy. Very fragrant and lively quite hot and citrusy. Phenolic finish. Highest vineyard in VDSG. Organic, 13% alcohol.
Correctly guessed = Vernaccia.
Wine: Montenidoli Vernaccia Fiore, 2013

Wine 6
Pretty and floral more expressive fruit and floral lively very pretty rounded and creamy saline and resin. Lively and fresh not hot but fruit forward and great to drink.
Correctly guessed: Vernaccia. From the NE portion of San Gimignano, made from 100% Venaccia. Vines up to 45 years of age. Altitude 240 m above sea level. All stainless vats with 6 months on lees.
Wine: Casale Falchini Vernaccia Vigna a Solatio, 2013

Wine 7
Hazelnut and creamy, honey wildflowers and buttery. Palate is also young and complex. Gorgeous and balanced albeit youthful. Lemony and mineral with some oak spice and nutty very good complexity.
some textural finish.Good potency, a more masculine than elegant.
Correctly guessed = Chalonnaise. From Givry. Typical powerful wines from this domain. 1/2 hectare, 33 year-old vines, 15 months in barrel 33% new oak. Stainless ferment.
Wine: Domaine Francois Lumpp Givry Blanc Clos des Vignes Rondes, 2012

Wine 8Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Resin vanilla, spice and patisserie with hazelnuts and assertive palate of acidity. hot wine with toasted and nutty patisserie flavours. Interesting, on the nose it is more obvious than the palate, a confusion between palate and nose.
Correctly guessed = Chalonnaise. From Mercurey
Wine: Louis Max Domaine de la Marche Blanc Les Caudroyes. 2012

Wine 9
Closed and kind of dusty, mineral and oak dust, earthy tones, dried herbs, dried flowers and toast. Palate: Very assertive acidity and dusty, chalky nose, resin and lemons.
Correctly guessed = Chalonnaise. Owners of 8 generations of vine nurseries. Wine comes from 55 year-old vines, 8 hectare estate vineyard.
Wine: Domaine Claudie Jobard Rully Blanc En Villerange 2012

Wine 10
Floral and crunchy fruit with mineral quite restrained with straw and citrus. Very shy wine. M: vibrant and a nice wright but balanced and juicy. Just a nice bit of oak to round it out. Good fennel finish.
Correctly guessed = Vernaccia. Made from 100% Vernaccia, 23-25 year-old vines. French oak vinification (10hl barrel)  then spends 4-5 months maturing in barrel.
Wine: Ca’ Del Vispo Vigna In Fiore, 2013

Wine 11
Dried flowers and citrus, golden fruits, a hint of butter and brioche, mineral and chalk. Vibrant acidity. assertive acidity chalky texture and flavour with a phenolic finish. Resin a hint but the phenolic finish is obvious.
Correctly guessed = Vernaccia. Organic vineyard. Annata (means fresh young wine) aged 16 months in concrete.
Wine: Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara, Campo della Pieve, 2012

Wine 12
Oxidative nose creamy and melted butter, warm and nutty, creamy texture and buttered brioche, golden fruit pastry. Good acidity but a bit flabby almost and not overly fresh
Correctly guessed: Chalonnaise. From Montagny (not showing well as it should be).
Wine: Domaine Feuillet-Julliot 1er Crun Montagny Les Montcuchots, 2011

Favourites: Tasted during Anteprima Vernaccia di San Gimignano

* Very Good
** Excellent
*** Outstanding

FalciniGuidi Vernaccia di San Gimignano

* “Vigna a Solatio” 2014: Fine floral talc aromas with citrus (less resinous than many Vernaccias) and a supple palate with fresh but soft acidity- very drinkable.
* “Ab Vinea Doni” 2013: Nutty and caramel notes on the nose layered with creamy orchard fruits and citrus. Bitter almond and lime are rounded out with flavours of caramel - nice uniqueness here with good length.


** Vernaccia 2014: Delicate fruit and citrus with hints of mineral and resin. Supple texture, good weight and pleasing (not assertive) acidity.


**Vernaccia 2014: Guidi’s modern style highlights the fruit in the Vernaccia variety. Stylish, floral and fruity with crunchy white and yellow fruits, alongside juicy citrus.The finish is crisp and clean with impressive power on the finish.
**Riserva “Aurean” 2013: This wine has the addition of some Chardonnay and is partially oak aged. Excellent concentration and fruit expression (tropical fruits) layered with citrus, caramel and fine spices. (photo right)

Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara

*** “Selvabianca” 2014: Pretty floral notes crisp orchard fruits, mineral citrus and bitter almond. Rounded palate entry with a pristine character and very grapefruit and tangy finish. (Photo below right)
*** “Campo della Pieve”, 2013: Very citrusy nose with some wild herbal notes, resin and bitter almond. Oak is obvious here but seems to work - quite balanced with a spicy, zesty finish.

Il Palagione

** “Hydra” 2014: A pretty wine with delicate gold fruits, mineral and citrus that rolls through onto the palate. Lovely weight and vivacity, not assertive.


** “Le Grillaie” 2014: Fresh and pristine with very good fruit expression and pretty floral notes. Creamy weight, bright acidity with a mineral finish. Good complexity.