What is Vin Santo?
According to Wikipedia “Vin Santo is a style of Italian dessert wine. Traditional in Tuscany, these wines are often made from white grape varieties such as Trebbiano and Malvasia, though Sangiovese may be used to produce a rosé style known as “Occhio di Pernice” or eye of the partridge. The wines may also be described as straw wines since they are often produced by drying the freshly harvested grapes on straw mats in a warm and well-ventilated area of the house. (However, several producers dry the grapes by hanging on racks indoors.) Though technically a dessert wine, a Vin Santo can vary in sweetness levels from bone dry (like a Fino Sherry) to extremely sweet…
…This process of desiccation allows the sugars in the grape to be more concentrated. The longer the grapes are allowed to dry and desiccate, the higher the resulting residual sugar levels will be in the wine. Depending on the style of wine desired, the grapes may be crushed and the fermentation process started after a few weeks or not till late March…
…After fermentation, the grapes are then aged in small oak barrels. In many DOC regions, the wines are required to age for at least 3 years though it is not uncommon for producers to age their wines for 5 to 10 years. Traditionally the barrels were made of chestnut instead of oak, which contributed high amounts of wood tannins and was very porous which promoted excessive evaporation in the barrel. Under this same traditional style of winemaking, a large ullage or air space would emerge in the barrel and oxidation took place. This gave the wine its characteristic amber but also flavours and traits…“
As you may guess as a dessert wine, you just need a small glass to enjoy, so you purchase these wines in half bottles, like you do for ice wine or late harvest wines. I was fortunate to be able to try a large flight of Vin Santo during the Chianti Classico Experience Trade Event I attended. While Wikipedia shows that Vin Santo is often made of white grape varieties, many of the Vin Santo I tried had a significant component of Sangiovese.
Vin Santo in Italian can be translated to “holy wine”, and was said to be used in the past as part of the Catholic mass. There are other discussions of the origin of this wine, but in the end, we are getting a nice sweet wine to enjoy with our dessert. I was told during my Chianti Classico Masterclass to not dip your biscotti or other cookies into the Vin Santo. The wine takes much time effort to make so sip it on its own to really enjoy its flavours.
Below are a few of the Vin Santo that I really enjoyed, and I hope you will have a chance to try them, and go beyond serving late harvest or ice wine.
My Favourite Vin Santo Wines
Carobbio Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2011 – 90% Sangiovese, 5% Trebbiano, and 5% Malvasia. Deep reddish amber colour. Sweet caramel nose. Full body, semi-sweet, spicy with flavours of apples and caramel. –
Castello di Albola Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2006 – A blend of Malvasia del Chianti and Trebbiano Toscano. Light peach colour. Cognac-like nose and palate. Off-dry mineral with dried peach, butterscotch and caramel flavours. A dry finish.
Dievole Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2012 – 65% Trebbiano Toscano and 35% Malvasia Bianca. Peach skin colour. Coconut and caramel on the nose and palate. Semi-sweet, medium body and acidity. Dried stone fruit and some caramel. Sweet finish. –
Felsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2007 – A blend of Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Peach skin colour. Cognac-like nose plus coconut aroma. Medium body and acidity. Semi-sweet. Sweet dried stone front and caramel. Sweet finish.
Fontodi Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC 2008 – 50% Sangiovese and 50% Malvasia. Deep copper brown colour. Coconut and caramel aromas. Medium plus body, round, thick and sweet. Caramel flavoured. –
For those of you who have read my earlier two articles on Chianti Classico, you may notice that I have overall liked the varied wines from Dievole, Fontodi, Felsina, and Castello di Albola.