An invitation to the Preview of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is not just any invitation but it must be considered as a real invitation to court. Because Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a true Queen, and although she is defined as the White Queen of Tuscany in the land of the Red Kings, in my opinion this definition is not fitting as I find it too narrow! She is The White Queen, period. She has been ruling for over ten centuries, and like all respectable secular kingdoms, she has lived through periods of splendor alternating with dark ages and difficult times from which she has always risen with her chin up high, true to herself but also enriched with new light and renewed splendor. The White Queen in the Timeless, that is what I like to call her. And she certainly could not let herself be bent by the evil Covid-19, so she has organized a beautiful 2021 Preview herself with the support of all her beloved subjects, because this event has been made possible thanks to the involvement of the entire City of San Gimignano.
On this Sunday in May, with alternating sunshine and clouds, the air here is truly electrifying! I am happy! The streets are full of people strolling joyfully and smiling! We are all still wearing masks, hopefully not for long, however. The smiles are in the look in their eyes, and they are the most beautiful smiles of all, the ones that cannot be faked. I get lost in the crowd and in my thoughts, nothing to do with the sad desolation of my last visit, when we were still in lockdown, and the Queen and her subjects were locked in their austere isolation. I rushed to Rocca di Montestaffoli as I am running late, but it does not matter because I have been granted two tasting sessions. I want to enjoy my Royal Audience with calm and concentration!
San Gimignano, with its towers and vineyards, can be considered a real “inner island” as Mario Soldati puts it in his book “Vino al Vino”:
“… a unicum of territories, where a unicum of wines is produced: the Vernaccia di San Gimignano…”.
And for this wine, white and very dry, fresh and fragrant, there are several literary citations indeed, the patents of its nobility.”
And although the most prestigious is that of Dante, who mentioned it in the Divine Comedy, my favorite however remains that of Michelangelo Buonarroti junior:
“… to the noble land high and with its towers / of the beautiful San Gimignano we made a trip … / … Vernaccia, / that they give to drink to whoever goes there / that kisses, licks, bites, and pokes and stings”
and this organoleptic judgment, which Soldati quotes and agrees with in 1968, surprisingly coincides with mine as well! But there is another statement by Soldati we all must agree with:
“There is nothing similar in Italy. Comparing it to all our other whites, it is just amazing”.
Noble, rebellious, many have tried to “catalogue” Vernaccia but she escapes any analogy, any comparison because the truth is that there are none. A female grown among the males, beautiful indeed, but in a real, authentic, peculiar way, beyond the conventional canons of beauty, and for this reason unparalleled and unforgettable. Determined but with elegance, strong but with composure, authoritative but never despotic, full but never opulent, 𝙑𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙞𝙖 𝙙𝙞 𝙎𝙖𝙣 𝙂𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙜𝙣𝙖𝙣𝙤 demands that you look her straight in the eyes and never lower your gaze!
The 2020 vintage is confirmed as splendid and will sure delight us in the future as well! The tasting of this vintage expresses and shows forth in the duality of its soul; on one hand we have interpretations in purity very tied to tradition, sapid, with varied and unmistakable aromas ranging from exotic fruits to field herbs enriched with elegant mineral notes. But we can also find interpretations a bit more contemporary, fresh, straightforward, seductive and that slip away with no pretension of a great aging potential. This way her Majesty the Queen, with magnanimity and balance, has made everyone happy: the lovers of tradition and of a rigorous Vernaccia, a bit more “complicated” if you will, as well as those who prefer to taste it as young, immediate, and jaunty. In short, everyone can find the style they prefer and still be confronted with great charm, balance, and typicality.
I am a hopeless romantic, a lover of tradition, what can I tell you! Therefore, it is easy to guess that, among the 2020, I was particularly struck by Casa Lucii, because it succeeds in bringing to the glass the true essence of this vine, and of this great wine, with a didactic nose, intense and of great elegance, and a fresh, sapid, immediate, graceful, and very pleasant sip; and I am ready to bet on its aging potential as well. It is the one which, in my opinion, has been able to recompose the two souls of its Queen in a “unicum” that makes everyone happy. The same can be said about La Lastra, and I would like to add that I found it just about perfect, without the slightest smear or roughness, both to the nose and sip. I will end it here, because I am not in the habit of ranking my best tastings, also because on this occasion there were many outstanding ones; in short, with the 2020 vintage, regardless of any specific label, you cannot go wrong!
There are several wineries that presented the 2019 vintage and not the 2020 this year, and not only in the Riserva version; we are more oriented towards more traditional interpretations here, with time as their main ally, and bottles that require a longer aging period as befits any great wine, as well as precious moments to relax in the glass, to open up and reveal themselves in all their richness and complexity. I silently thanked the Consortium once again for having granted me two sessions, because besides having enough time to dedicate to each glass, I had fun tasting different labels in more than one round, changing the mix of every battery. It was an interesting chess game, with some unexpected twists and turns and a great confirmation: Assola from Tenuta Montagnani , 2019 Riserva, which debuts with the new brand Terre di Sovernaja, the ancient name of the land where the winery stands today, as reported in the Leopoldino land register.
Exactly like last year, this bottle took me back to the seaside in the company of a delicious tray of oysters. Its beautiful iodine note, the delicate floral sensations of elder and gorse, the embroidery of aromatic herbs such as dill, wild fennel, and finally that delicious touch of anise on a background of white and tropical fruit, immediately make you think of summer! The sip is savory, full, intense, charming! The strong minerality is a prerogative of Vernaccia and it is not a coincidence that you can also find the magic of the sea breeze in its soul; San Gimignano, today an “inland island”, in a very ancient past of millions of years ago must have been a small island surrounded by the primordial sea, as proven by the wonderful fossil shells you can admire at Cesani’s, and while you are at it, take the opportunity to have a glass of Sanice Riserva 2018 as well. You’ll thank me for it!
A final applause and a heartfelt thank you to the Consorzio del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano for the impeccable organization and exquisite hospitality. See you soon, and hopefully without a mask!