Vernaccia di San Gimignano

The most famous name among the white wines of Tuscany is that of Vernaccia di San Gimignano (www.vernaccia.it). The town was a sort of Manhattan in mediaeval times, with 70 tall towers, 13 of which still stand today. During its seven hundred years of history, the story of the town has been intertwined with that of Vernaccia, and Castelli del Grevepesa offers its own authentic version: Bertesca in the Castelgreve line.

There are references to Vernaccia even in the thirteenth century, with a first mention in the 1276 tax records for the town: “un salma vini de vernaccia ad mulum, soldi 3”. Dante also alludes to Vernaccia, the only wine mentioned in the Divine Comedy. In Canto XXIV of the Purgatoria, he describes how Pope Martin IV has to atone for his gluttony by constantly eating Bolsena eels and drinking Vernaccia. Vernaccia was already well-known in the sixteenth century, with every noble family in San Gimignano and Florence producing it in large quantities; it even attracted the attention of Sante Lancerio, wine-bottler to Pope Paolo III Farnese.

Some years later (between 1555 and 1572) Giorgio Vasari described one of the frescoes he had painted in the Salone dei Cinquecento, depicting the conquest of Colle and San Gimignano by Florence: “Geminianum et Colle oppida, sono S. Gimignano e Colle, terre grosse e principali: ed il fiume che vi ho finto, lo fo per l’Elsa; e quel satiro giovane, che ha accanto, beve la Vernaccia di quel luogo” (the towns of Geminianum and Colle are S. Gimignano and Colle, large, important territories: and the river is intended to be the River Elsa; and that young satyr beside it is drinking the local Vernaccia). Vernaccia is now a well-established name, becoming Italy’s top-selling DOC white in 1966. There are 720 hectares of vineyards in the area planted with Vernaccia vines, which contribute a minimum 85% content to the various labels. Production averages at nearly 6 million bottles a year, resulting in a turnover of 16 million Euros. These results are linked to the marketing of San Gimignano itself, which attracts millions of tourists every year, with 52% of sales to foreign markets.

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