Wine tours in Tuscany are generally rightfully focused on the wonderful reds from the region; however, the lesser known and happily excellent whites must have their moment in the sun. The two most commonly planted white grapes in Italy, malvasia and trebbiano, are widely represented in Tuscany, and often found in local blends. Good quality white wines are being produced with these grapes all across the country and Tuscany is no exception. However, the real stand out whites indigenous to the region are vermentino and vernaccia. Vermentino does well along Tuscany’s Mediterranean coast, with a crisp fresh acidity and delicious mineral quality, balanced by a haunting, addictive, ever-so-slight salty tang. Perfect with seafood, Tuscan vermentino is loved for its refreshing qualities and it is wonderfully quaffable on a warm summer day. Touring the coast of Tuscany, doing serious “research” on vermentino can fill an entire summer with happy memories of small hidden coves, boat filled marinas drenched in sparkling sunlight, amazingly fresh seafood dishes, dedicated and hardworking cantinas and bijoux vineyards where young white wines are cherished and shared with generous hospitality.
Vernaccia is particularly special because it is a true homebody of a grape. The historic town of San Gimignano is the heart of vernaccia country and wine touring in Tuscany would not be the same without a visit to this beautiful hilltop covered in the remains of medieval towers built by wealthy merchants jostling to show off their riches. Vernaccia grapes grow only in this tiny area and have long been famous for the wines they make, as indicated by tax regulations for their sale as early as 1276. The pale straw yellow wine, redolent of wild flowers and dried fruit, is a delicious surprise to every wine lover who takes their first sip. A rare white with a mellow body and the potential for ageing, vernaccia brings Tuscan whites out of the shadows and San Gimignano’s wineries are a delightful surprise in the midst of all the big name red wines so often in the Tuscan spotlight.
Tuscany’s allure for visitors is many faceted to be sure, but wine lovers will truly find a profound and abiding connection with this small corner of the world, so ineffably tied to grapes and vines and the mystical results of human effort to extract the best from a single simple fruit. Wine touring in Tuscany is much more than a chance to sample some of Made in Italy’s finest, it is the chance to see and smell, breathe and taste the soul of a region that continues to give the global wine industry irreplicable wines of the highest quality, with the greatest history and emotion.