Tasting Vernaccia Di San Gimignano at Cappella Sant'Andrea Winery in Tuscany
San Gimignano is one of Tuscany's most visited towns, with a historic and medieval look and feel that's still intact for you to enjoy. A trip here is one of the most popular day trips from Florence — just an hour from the Renaissance city — and a great addition for your Italy bucket list. But it’s worth much more than a day. Being fans of slow travel that we are, there’s enough to keep you busy in San Gimignano is one of the prettiest hilltop towns in Italy, and worth staying an overnight or two for a richer experience. Number one on our list? Taking one of the many Tuscany wine tours to taste the Italian white wine that's unique to this region, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
As you sit in the Piazza sipping your glass of Vernaccia, the crisp Italian white wine that's produced here, it's not hard to imagine hearing your carriage clip-clopping along the cobblestone street arriving to take you back to your estate (or Airbnb) in the countryside. Yes, this historic town is that romantic.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
So when you find yourself in San Gimignano - and you will - take a scenic drive in the Tuscan countryside just five minutes outside of town to a winery that produces Vernaccia wine - Cappella Sant'Andrea.
Tuscany is world-renowned for their bold red wines - Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - and their white wines often take a back seat. But not for long. Wineries like Cappella Sant'Andrea are changing that, and a visit to San Gimignano is one of the most popular Tuscany wine tours.
Touring Cappella Sant'Andrea
We visited the winery recently with our friends at Km Zero Tours, who specialize in slow travel tours, and met our host Fillipo for a tour and dinner. We've visited other organic wineries in Tuscany at Pacina Winery and Podere Erica, but were excited to taste Vernaccia for the first time, the traditional San Gimignano wine.
Cappella Sant'Andrea is owned by Francesco and Flavia who produce about 44,000 bottles a year on 8 hectares (20 acres) - Vernaccia mostly with smaller bottlings of Sangiovese and Merlot as well. All of their wine is produced naturally and organically in soil that was once the Ligurian Sea, giving a superb mineral essence to the wine.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano
That wine you were dream-sipping in the Piazza - is a white wine that's completely unique to the area, dating back to medieval times. The thin-skinned grape must be pressed quickly after harvesting usually around early September. A first pressing from pulp only and less than six months from the field to table yields their Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, a fresh and drinkable wine with good acidity. The more elegant "Prime Luce" Vernaccia from older vines is aged longer in terra cotta for two weeks with the skins on, then one year in bottles. The skins are then used for compost and to make the signature jams they sell at the winery. Vernaccia isn’t as elegant and well-balanced as the Austrian white Sauvignon Blanc we tasted in south Styria or the Wachau Valley, though they are ever bit as crisp. But this has a rustic quality and is very drinkable. To me, it’s a perfect souvenir from northern Tuscany’s Crete Senesi soil.
In addition to rosés from sangiovese and merlot grapes and their "Super Tuscan", a traditional Chianti Colli Senesi from sangiovese, they also produce saffron, a traditional crop still widely grown in Tuscany. The farm utilizes goats and donkeys for natural fertilizer, just one more way tradition blends in with "modern" organic methods.
Wine-making at Cappella Sant'Andrea is in constant harmony with the environment - weather, seasons, and moon phases dictate their entire process from when to plant to harvest and bottle.
Dinner at Cappella Sant'Andrea
We absolutely loved having dinner in the old indoor "stable" with an amazing array of traditional Tuscan specialties prepared by Fillipo: appetizers of crostini with olive oil and bruscetta, fresh olives, and an entree of homemade Pappardelle with Zucchini and Pumpkin. The light bites paired well with the different wines, almost isolating certain notes and flavors of the wine and highlighting the production process. And of course, sitting down with family and friends in such a beautiful setting with the most delicious regional Italian food is hard to beat, and a perfect way to end the day!
IF YOU GO
Cappella Sant'Andrea Winery - Loc. Casale 26, 53037 - San Gimignano (SI)
We visited the winery with our friends at Km Zero Tours, who arrange some of the best wine tours in Tuscany. Give them a shout to arrange a tour, tasting, and in depth visit.