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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tuscan Whites---an Oxymoron?

                            Vernaccia vineyards surround the charming town of San Gimigano

Tuscany is really red wine country (Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti, are both made from the area’s signature Sangiovese grape).  But, those in the know, understand that there are now two white varietals from Tuscany that are responsible for some lovely white wines. Vernaccia di San Gimignano (grown around the medieval walled town of San Gimignano, a popular stop for tourists) and Vermentino (from Tuscany’s coastal area) are producing two wines that command respect.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first Italian white grape to be granted DOC status (1966), which means only grapes grown in a demarcated area around San Gimignano) can use this on their label.  In 1993 the Italian government upped the ante by awarding these wines the special DOCG status (the “G” supposedly guarantees the quality as DOCG wines are tasted by a panel).

Vernaccia from the land surrounding the village of San Gimignano produces a medium-bodied white.  The wine has a characteristic flavor suggesting almonds.  It has good acidity which means it is quite refreshing…even on Tuscany’s hot summer days.  In addition, it works well with vegetables, pasta and fish.   Best producers are Il Colombaio di Chiara and Fontaleone.

Vermentino is one of my favorite summer wines.  The varietal is grown along the Tuscan coastline (and neighboring Italian Riviera, as well as the island of Sandinia where the varietal reaches rock-star status).  In these areas near the sea  temperatures are more moderate than the inland area where Vernaccia di San Gimignano is grown.  The wine is very aromatic, a combination of floral and fruit notes.  Whenever we serve Vermentino (which is frequently as an aperitivo during San Diego’s nearly year-around warm weather) everyone raves and wants to know what it is.  My favorite Tuscan Vermentino is made by Poggio al Tesoro.  Wine-Knows has an appointment scheduled with this producer in the June trip when we have leased a 10,000 square foot villa on Tuscany’s coastline.

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