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La Vernaccia, trait d’union between Dante and the present: the “San Gimignano system”

In the “Manhattan of the fourteenth century”, where history, architecture, art, wine, and high gastronomy live in perfect balance

“... ebbe la Santa Chiesa e le sue braccia: dal torso fu, e purga per digiuno le anguille di Bolsena e la Vernaccia ...”: this is how Dante, in the Divina Commedia, the highest work in the history of Italian literature, talk about Vernaccia, the only wine mentioned, in the XXIV Canto of the Purgatorio, which tells of the punishment inflicted on Pope Martin IV, who had to serve his sins.
A link, that between the “Manhattan of the fourteenth century” and the Supreme Poet, which goes even beyond a simple quotation: Dante, in fact, “in 1299 he was ambassador of the Lea Guelfa, and therefore of Florence, in San Gimignano, which he tried to bring from the Florentine side, despite then (as today, ed.) was under the rule of Siena,” reminds WineNews the mayor Andrea Marrucci,
from the setting of the Sala Dante, the most beautiful of the Palazzo Comunale overlooking Piazza del Duomo, from the Anteprima della Vernaccia, with the 2019 vintage and the 2018 Reserves in the glasses. A story, between Dante and Vernaccia, which San Gimignano is ready to celebrate in 2021, 700 years after the death of the Florentine poet, with a full calendar of events, as announced by the President of the Regional Council Eugenio Giani, in which Vernaccia will play a leading role. After all, the only great white wine in Tuscany, a red wine region par excellence, plays an increasingly central role in the economic and social fabric of the territory, the protagonist of a virtuous triangle in which artistic and architectural beauty acts as a fly-wheel, “attracting more than three million tourists every year, from all over the world”, recalls the director of the Vernaccia Consortium Stefano Campatelli. “San Gimignano is, after Florence and Siena, the third tourist destination in Tuscany, and this affects the entire economy of the area, so much that the sales of Vernaccia linked to tourism, in this sense, are very important, and are worth, between consumption on the premises and direct sales in the company, 17% of the total of 5.3 million produced - on average - each year (4.7 million in 2018 and 2019, ed.) by 90 producers on 730 hectares planted with Vernaccia, a native grape variety grown only here,” adds Campatelli.
A fundamental aspect in the commercial structure of Vernaccia, with one bottle in two remaining in Italy (48%), while 18% of total production ends up in the United States, and the remaining 34% in markets all over the world, starting from Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Canada. Numbers, however, that make Vernaccia “a small denomination, if compared to the numbers of the rest of the world” - mayor Marrucci resumes - and that force us to take the path of quality, with the production of Vernaccia that becomes an instrument of environmental and landscape protection of the territory. San Gimignano in 2020 needs Vernaccia and its quality, which is based on the great work of the producers”.
Vernaccia is not only a protagonist of the economic fabric of the territory, but also a “trait union between gastronomy, culture, and winemaking, because - recalls the president of the Consortium of Vernaccia, Irina Strozzi Guicciardini - recalling the history and tradition, is a continuation of what has been a culture handed down for generations, but also a wine that goes well with traditional dishes of San Gimignano and Tuscany. From this point of view, to enhance it, even more, the aim is to communicate on the territory what Vernaccia di San Gimignano represents: it is a denomination with a unique history, not repeatable in other places, and this we must learn to tell it, spreading the culture and education, projecting it into the future among the new generations”.
History, wine and - to close the triangle of the San Gimignano system - starred restaurants, now a real tourist attraction, on the wave of the chef stars and the passion of Italian gourmands for haute cuisine, capable of creating real microeconomies. Even under the towers of the city of Vernaccia where, in recent years, the first two Michelin-starred restaurants have arrived: “Al 43”, with chef Maurizio Bardotti at the stove, and “Cum Quibus”, led by Lorenzo Di Paolantonio. An added value also for Vernaccia, which is rediscovered not only as a simple, ready-to-drink white wine, but also as a wine able to stand on the grand tables, holding without fear of comparison with the great white territories of the world, and exalting both traditional dishes and those of distant cuisines, starting with Asian ones, with the freshness, acidity, and minerality of Vernaccia that drive unexpected pairing. “The triangle between Vernaccia, San Gimignano, and high-level catering - says Stefano Campatelli - may prove to be a winning formula for the future of the whole territory”.

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