The lesser-known Tuscan dry white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, has a long pedigree in Italy and often provides great value. Michael Apstein picks his favourites below...

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The Italians created their classification hierarchy, the Denominazione di Origine (DOC), 50 years ago to highlight their best wines. So what was Italy’s first DOC, the one the Italians most wanted to trumpet?

Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo would be reasonable guesses. But no
, it was Vernaccia di san Gimignano. Brunello di Montalcino became Italy’s first DOCG (Denominazione di Origine e Garantita) in 1980 – Vernaccia di San Gimignano followed later, in 1993.

Italian authorities were right to put the spotlight on the region, as it produces appealing and crisp white wines with good density and complexity that – and here’s where consumers should take notice – generally sell for less than £15 a bottle.

The grape, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, is unique, grown in central Tuscany to the southwest of Florence, and almost nowhere else. Regulations allow blending of small amounts of other white varieties, such as Chardonnay or even Viognier, but few producers do so, fearing, justifiably, that the distinctiveness of the Vernaccia will be overwhelmed.

The 2014 and 2015 Vernaccia di San Gimignanos, both currently on the market, afford a fascinating comparison. The 2015s are more opulent, but still have plenty of verve, because of the naturally high acidity of the grape. The 2014s are leaner and racier. Older vintages, except the occasional riserva from top producers, should be avoided.

Written by Michael Epstein and edited for Decanter.com by Laura Seal.

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