The first news of this variety was found in the municipal archives of San Gimignano and dates back to 1276, when a wine of the same name was offered to the Curia, the Casa Medici and other Italian and foreign princes. The ‘Vernaccia’ wine was praised by Pope Paul III’s bottler, ‘Sante Lancerio’ and praised in the verses of ‘Buonarroti the Younger’ and ‘Redi’.
Micheli (1679) describes the ‘Vernaccia di S. Gimignano’ as follows: the bunch weigh is one and a half pound, with smaller berries, similar in shape and size to those of "Zuccaia ", it is flaxen white in colour, sweet in taste. Molon (1906) named a ‘Vernaccia in Tuscany’ that would be a synonym of ‘Verdea of Arcetri’.
An accurate description of this variety was reported by Fregola in 1932 and later by De Astis (1937) describing the characteristics of ‘Vernaccia di San Gimignano’ stating that recent investigations tend to show the clear distinction of this variety from other Italian ‘Vernaccia’, white and black, and also from the classic Sardinian Vernaccia.
The full ampelographic description of ‘Vernaccia’ varieties, including that of ‘San Gimignano’, is in the work of Bruni et al. (1962). The term ‘Vernaccia’ defines a large group of varieties even very different, which have the common characteristic to giving a wines with similar organoleptic qualities.
As in the case of ‘Malvasia’, the wine may have given the name to the grapevine.
The etymology of the name is not univocal since it could have derived from ‘vernaculus’, the late Latin word with which it was defined everything that came from a particular place, not imported, indigenous, or from ‘Vernazza’ (Gallesio, 1839), a city of Cinque Terre (Five Lands) in eastern Liguria, famous for its white wine, a valuable trade for the Maritime Republic of Genova. In support of this hypothesis recently has been reported that ‘Piccabón’ identified in Monterosso, one of yhe Five Lands, is a synonyms of ‘Vernaccia di San Gimignano’ (Torello-Marinoni et al., 2009).
Another hypothesis is that it derived from ‘Garnacha white’, a white wine imported for nobles (Rebora, personal comunications). According to the document in the municipal archive of S. Gimignano, in 1280 a certain Perone Peroni imported some cuttings from Greece that were planted in the Pietrafitta farm, which produced for a long period a renowned ‘Vernaccia’. So, it's possible that there existed two distinct varieties, a Tuscan one and a Greek one, from which this wine was obtained and this makes it difficult to know which one came first, the one of Greek origin or the existing one (Scalabrelli, 1991).