March 05: San Gimignano is a small town in the heart of Tuscany and a tourist’s delight for art, history and architecture bringing in 3.5 million visitors a year and its world famous white Vernaccia di San Gimignano adds to the charm of the city, writes Subhash Arora who has been in love with it and its wines for years and cannot get enough of it during the visits and reaffirms,’ I have lost my heart in San Gimignano’ after the recent visit on 12-13 February, 2019
It’s a set routine. Leave Florence outside Leopolda old railway station amidst continuous announcements of the 2 buses leaving for San Gimignano at 4 pm and invariably one person left behind, making us all wait for 30-45 minutes on the way and delaying the trip to Montepulciano. Surprisingly there was none of that this time and we had a pleasant ride for an hour that brought us to Hotel Relais La Cappuccina just outside San Gimignano on February 12.
After the usual long check-in waits for a busload of passengers (I hope nobody gives negative points in Trip Advisor for late check-ins!). After a few minutes rest, one rushed for a small conference to the designated area in the big conference room where the 2018 vintage was the focus by dignitaries on the dais after Letizia Cesani, the ever-so-charming President of the Consorzio Vernaccia San Gimignano welcomed the guests and later invited them for dinner to the restaurant where the visitors were treated to a meal that had a selection of over 80 wines to taste over a rather long evening. But I really enjoyed the Mousse with Pecorino di Pienza with fresh truffles sprinkled on top- a perfect pairing with Riserva wines.
Anteprima Vernaccia di San Gimignano is being held for the last few years in the De Grada Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. This time was no different. Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2018 and Riserva 2017 (and a few earlier vintages) were the protagonists; Visitors could taste wine with the 40 participating producers in rooms full of beautiful paintings hanging on the walls and various other artifacts. A few windows facing Centro (old town) gave us an opportunity to even look at the beautiful old San Gimignano skyline. It is almost a surrealistic feeling tasting these wines with beautiful paintings and sculptures looking at you.
San Gimignano makes about 5 million liters of wine a year. About 55 % of the wine is exported. Out of the balance, half of it is consumed by the 3.5 million tourists annually while the other half is sold within Italy. Known for its vibrant freshness and shorter long life, the producers have been working overtime to prove to the world that their production is still a work- in- progress and these wines are also age-worthy and can be fun with oak. The jury is still out about the latter.
The Tasting at Sala Dente in the morning has been attracting House Full crowds for inexplicable reasons. This year was no different. The hall was full and many people had to be turned back disappointed. (Details in the next issue)
The Tasting with Sommeliers in De Grada Museum is the quieter part of the Anteprima. Again, the rooms are divided into whatever space is made available to the organisers, I believe. Several tables laid in a congestive manner in different rooms saw sommeliers ever-so-ready to serve flights of 4 wines at a time- same way as in Florence. In fact many of the faces were the same.
An interesting catered local lunch was served in a small lawn outside- mostly standing. After lunch the tempo of tasting tapered off a bit. Due to the nature of the structure of the programme, one rushed to catch the bus outside the Centro at the pick-up point lest one missed the bus. It first took the journalists to their respective hotels where they had already been checked out in the morning. New buses were waiting- ready to transport us to the next destination- Montepulciano.
Every time I promise myself to come back and spend a couple of days relaxing and visiting a few wineries. Last year I came close to it when I visited the town from Florence but had to get back the same day, making me long for yet another time. As they say in Heidelberg Germany, ‘Ich hab mein herz in San Gimignano verloren!’
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