San Gimignano, the Vernaccia wine and the saffron

The Vernaccia of San Gimignano is one of oldest white wines of the Italian peninsula with a production and consumption which dates all the way back to the 13th century. The vines used to make the wine (which go by exactly the same name of Vernaccia) grow all around San Gimignano, one of the nicest zones in Tuscany with its towers and beautiful views of the countryside.

The Vernaccia of San Gimignanois a dry wine with a fine, penetrating aroma and a rather bitter aftertaste. If drinking during its early stages of maturity (at which time it is usually drank at a temperature of 11-12 degrees), it is best when drank alongside main courses of fish and white meats. It is also considered a great wine for aperitif.

The history of this wine dates all the way back to Medieval times when the wine was introduced in the region of Liguria by a certain Vieri de’ Bardi and his sons, Zanobi and Agnolo, around 1200, who started to produce and trade the wine. The wine had an immediate success which was not limited to the area where it was produced. Evidence of the wine’s Medieval history can be seen in a document from San Gimignano, written in 1276, which details the taxes to be paid for the exportation of this wine. Fifty years after this document was written, the reputation of this wine was so great that even the famous Dante gave it a mention in his acclaimed book,The Divine Comedy. Within the book, Dante describes a father, Martino IV, who was well-known in Purgatorio for his habit of gorging on eels from Bolzena washing them down with the great Vernaccia.

Despite its ancient origins, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano has undergone many improvements in its production techniques over time all of which have contributed to its current level of high quality. In recognition of this great achievement, the Vernaccia was one of the first Tuscan wines to receive the prestigious DOCG seal of approval in 1993.

It is not by chance that the rich merchants of San Gimignano gave way to the production of a wine greatly known for its high quality. San Gimignano, perched atop a hill which dominates the Valdelsa, has been an important and wealthy district since 13th century thanks to its location along via Francigena. Only the notorious plague of 1348 (which was noted by Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron) has shaken the continued success of this town, causing a slight decline which was overcome in modern times thanks to the beauty of the town and the high quality of the surrounding land, the secret behind its excellent agricultural production.

San Gimignano’s stunning architecture serves as evidence of the town’s Medieval wealth, with a range of stone towers still standing today. It is these very towers which together create the town’s famous profile, with its highest tower, built in 1311, standing at 54 metres tall. Numerous works of art, preserved within the town’s many churches and museums, also bear witness to San Gimignano’s high status during Medieval times. As well as the Musem of Archeologyand the Museum of Sacred Art, which host numerous works of art belonging previously to churches and convents that are now destroyed, there is also the town’s duomo (also known as Collegiata di San Gimignano), the Sant’Agostino Church and Palazzo Comunale, all of which feature masterpieces by some of Florence’s and Siena’s greatest artists.

The local produce, along with the beauty of the city, have given San Gimignano a reputation which does not stop at its wine. Another famous product of the town is its saffron, which, like the Vernaccia wine, is a blend of ancient and modern characteristics. It too was mentioned in a document from the 13th century, yet another reference to the wealth and prestige of the city during Medieval times.

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