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Fontaleoni Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2012
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery, and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, as well as in price from budget-friendly to ultra-premium, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano trailing far behind.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, perfect for Sangiovese as it ripens most efficiently on slopes with maximum exposure to sunlight.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright red fruit and not much more, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello in particular is sensitive to vintage variation, performing best in years that are not too hot and not too cold. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, the island of Elba and more inland, in Carmignano.
Vernaccia's intricate history has roots in San Gimignano, whose main village’s quaint restaurants and steep pedestrian-only cobblestone streets make it as romantic—if not more—as any other Tuscan village. The idyllic countryside upon which this vine grows was actually named Italy’s first DOC in 1966. The 13th century marks its first written record and the grape was celebrated widely in literature, for example in poems by Dante and Franseco Redi.
Sapid with a mineral persistence, Vernaccia also offers up generous amounts of white peach and melon. It has lovely floral qualities, plenty of verve on the palate and often a fresh note of green almond. Vernaccia goes with so many dishes including cooked or raw fish, puff pastry appetizers and hard-to-pair vegetables like asparagus and artichoke.