San Gimignano's Saffron and Vernaccia
The Flavors of Tuscany
Saffron of San Gimignano
San Gimignano D.O.P. Saffron - tasty and versatile spice whose scientific name is crocus sativus – has been for centuries a very important product for San Gimignano’s economy. At the beginning of the 13th century the city was faced with the payment of debts deriving from a previous siege: the payment was made in money and saffron alike. Since then, for its value, San Gimignano’s saffron is called “The red gold”.
At the half of the 13th century, a tax was imposed by the local authorities on saffron and Vernaccia’s exportations, the local precious white wine. Still today, the saffron is cultivated without using any chemical agents and the delicate red pistils, called stigmi, are hand harvested and packed whole, in order to preserve their scent and quality intact.
The harvest of San Gimignano’s saffron follows particular “rituals”: the flowers must be picked in the earliest hours of the day, when the flower has not yet fully bloomed, and the pistils must be dried as soon as possible. The saffron plant is indeed very old, coming maybe from minor Asia or from North Africa, and finds the perfect environment for its ripening in a mild climate, humid, hot and moderately rainy.
Mainly for these reasons, saffron has flourished in the countryside around San Gimignano, earning from 2005 the D.O.P. trademark. This spice is perfect to enrich in flavor first courses, meat and fish dishes and even paired with cheeses. It can be used to garnish vegetables or to give a special flavor to ice creams, biscuits, pies and desserts. With its outstanding quality, a few pistils are enough to make a dish colourful and tasty!
The D.O.C.G. Vernaccia of San Gimignano
Another gastronomical highlight of San Gimignano, next to saffron, is most undoubtedly the Vernaccia of San Gimignano, a white wine produced only in the countryside close to the town.
Vernaccia is a native vine variety which gives the name to the wine that it produces. It is a white wine, distinctively straw-coloured, releasing flowery and fruity scents and it is one of the extremely rare white wines for ageing. It pairs perfectly with fish and white meats.
Vernaccia is one of the oldest wines in Italy, believed to date back to the very origins of the town of San Gimignano itself. Its importance is such that this wine was also mentioned in the renowned Dante’s Divine Comedy. Through the ages, after the Middle Age and the Renaissance, the Vernaccia underwent a period of decline in production until the end of the Second World War, when its production flourished again.
The local wine makers rediscovered its value and increased the production until Vernaccia became the first Italian wine to receive the D.O.P. trademark, in 1966. After this award, the D.O.C.G. trademark soon followed.
The production of Vernaccia grew in size and numbers, such as to require the institution of a Consorzio, an association of local wine makers to enhance and protect this highlight of the Tuscan land. To this day, the consortium of San Gimignano counts 115 local affiliates. During your stay at Hotel Certaldo, make sure not to miss a meal with a lovely saffron-based dish and a glass of Vernaccia!