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Vernaccia di San Gimignano: a history throughout the years and culture!

Vernaccia di San Gimignano: a history throughout the years and culture!

February 2016, Pope Frances flew to Cuba to meet the patriarch Kirill and on his flight he was offered a bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. What an honour!

And yet, it isn’t the first time that Popes and Vernaccia have been brought together. As a matter of fact Vernaccia has been the wine of nobles man, ecclesiast, popes and king since the very beginning.

For example Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1491 tasted a wonderful vintage of Vernaccia and was so awestruck by it that he decided to send it to Pope Innocent the VIII.

Moreover and potentially most famously Dante Alighieri, recounts of how he met Pope Martin the IV in Purgatory who used to perform his celestial duty of abstention and fasting eating eels paired with Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Surely a man great taste, not so sure about his spirituality!

 “….ebbe la Santa Chiesa e le sue braccia: dal Torso fu, e purga per digiuno le anguille di Bolsena e la Vernaccia….”, Purgatorio, Canto XXIV

The history

We find the first ever mention of Vernaccia in an official tax document – can’t escape them – where they were imposing a tax on its exiting from San Gimignano’s borders.

Apart from that, it’s actual origin is a mistery as is its name – to be very honest with you.
For some the term Vernaccia comes from the town in liguria Vernazza, famous for its white wine. For others it comes from the latin term Vernaculus which means local – so it could have potentially indicated the simple fact that it was local to San Gimignano.

Scholar cannot settle on a version but what is sure is that by 1316 – the time the Purgatorio was written – Vernaccia was already a wine fit for a Pope.

I will trow in another exciting reference that places Vernaccia not only at the pinnacle of wine history but also to the one of our cultural and spefically art history.
In the Salone dei Cinquecento, in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, we find a beautiful allegory of San Gimignano and Colle Val d’Elsa where the Vasari painted – amongst other things – a young satyr drinking the Vernaccia from that luogo.

San Gimignano and Colle Val d’Elsa

It is funny coincidence that we find the city of Colle Val d’Elsa and San Gimignano in the same fresco, becuase a “few” years later their destinies were meant to be brought closer together again.
In fact, notwhitstanding the fame and renown Vernaccia had enjoyed for centuries, in the 18th centuries it’s production and consumption lost interest, the new exotic beverages were the new craze and so by the 1800 you’d find cafe, hot chocolate, tea everywhere but you would have been lucky if you were able to find a wine that was half decent.

Yuck to wine? What did they know… 😒

And yet here is when Colle Val d’Elsa or better a man from Colle Val d’Elsa comes to the rescue. In 1931 Carlo Fregola, Regent of the Cathedra of Agricolture of that said happy town, found the Vernaccia vine amongst the others vineyards of San Gimignano… HE STRUCK GOLD – one might as well say – and immediately understood its importance and the need to re-plant it.

Sadly – mind you.. this is is a story whose vicessitudes are worth their soap operas! – the first world war came and then a second, so it’s actual re planting was slowed down and it is only in the 1960s that the

And yet, from the 60s onwards…

Vernaccia di San Gimignano’s (Success) began to climb
How to account for his rise to the top?
Man, the man is non-stop

Hamilton quotes aside, Vernaccia became extremely well known and successful becoming the first ever wine to receive a DOC certification and the DOCG one in 1993.

We end on this happy musical note our story of Vernaccia BUT


More interesting stories, fact curiosities about Vernaccia will soon follow and hey! Who says we will stop at Vernaccia only.. we have a whole list of wines that require are attention.

So stay tuned for more! 😏

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