Although there are a few (likely unrelated) grapes in Italy with the name Vernaccia, the most famous is certainly that of the San Gimignano area in Tuscany. Whilst it is unclear if this Vernaccia is a native Italian variety, it is considered the most ancient grape to be grown in Italian soils.
Not the easiest grape to cultivate, the Vernaccia grape lost some of its popularity during the 1900s, but made a big comeback just a few decades later. Indeed, in 1960 Vernaccia di San Gimignano became the first wine to be awarded the status of DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status before, some three decades later, earning the more prestigious DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) appellation.
To make Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine, regulations require 90% Vernaccia, with other non-aromatic varieties from a select list of approved grapes making up the remaining 10%.
Rare for a white wine, there is also a Vernaccia di San Gimignano ‘riserva’, that is aged for a whole year, four months of which is in the bottle.
The Vernaccia wine produced is a crisp white that is, since more modern times, often aged in barrels (not common for a white wine) to produce a strong, almost bitter white.
In terms of wine pairing, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is quite flexible, being able to be matched with cold cuts and cheeses, pasta and risotto dishes, medium-intensity flavours of roasted chicken, rabbit, light stews, smoked fish and some lighter game.
Today, it’s flexibility in wine pairing, simplicity and delicious taste make the Vernaccia di San Gimignano wine quite popular in Tuscany and Italy generally.