Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a wine style most Canadians are unfamiliar with, but perhaps surprisingly it's history dates back almost a thousand years. The appellation is dedicated to white wine production based on the local grape of the same name. Originally Vernaccia was a celebrated sweet white wine - in fact Leonardo Da Vinci is credited by some to have written the first wine review and the wine he wrote about was Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Earlier Dante mentions Vernaccia as a wine sent to purgatory with the greedy in The Divine Comedy.
Moving ahead a number of centuries the wine style morphed into a dry style. Typically most Vernaccia are unoaked but increasingly reserve versions have some minimal oak aging which lends a creamy richness and delicate wood tones to what is classically a medium-bodied white wine noted for its grassy aromas and flavours. One of my favourite off the beaten track places to visit is Fattoria Poggio Alloro - a small farm overlooking the city of San Gimignano (a highly popular tourist destination in Tuscany). The organic farm, which is also home to a quaint hotel and extremely popular restaurant, makes wines from organically grown grapes. The wines are now available at Bishop's Cellar.
Everyday: Fattoria Poggio Alloro Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Bishop's Cellar, $14.83+tax)
This is a remarkably fresh style with some of the grapes classic grassy notes. No need to go into a lengthy description for this wine, it is simply fresh, light and sensationally smooth.
Serving Suggestion: Pasta with clams and chopped parsley
Gourmet: Fattoria Poggio Alloro Vernaccia di San Gimignano Le Mandoile (Bishop's Cellar, $23.30+tax)
Despite only 3 months of oak aging the wine takes on rich vanilla oak aromas but without sacrificing the freshness of the grape with some chalky acidity that brings length and interest. A great Chardonnay substitute.
Serving suggestion: Halibut or lobster served with a butter sauce
Mark DeWolf is the Food & Drinks Editor of Occasions Magazine, a sommelier instructor and owner of By the Glass.