Italian dessert wine is difficult to find in Bordeaux. In fact, I’ve had to order most of the Italian wine we taste here, but you can find some if you dig hard.
Our Italian Food, Wine, Travel group’s December theme is wines for the holiday feast (scroll down for more #ItalianFWT). Since I’m in transit most of December with little time to cook, I’m digging up and feasting on a memory versus diving into Italian food and wine. That memory is Vin Santo.
Most Vin Santo, a typically sweet Italian wine, is white but a red style is produced too with Sangiovese… mostly. One thing that applies to all Vin Santo- it’s a passito style of wine made in the appassimento method.
Mark and my experience with the sweet passito style was getting to taste and see how it’s made. Our first “Big Wine Adventure” as a couple, appropriately named BA1, included visiting Sienna and its environs in Tuscany. Venturing off to a small producer, we encountered grapes drying on wooden racks in a special drying room (fruttio). Over the course of three to six months, these grapes loose moisture, concentrating their sugars and flavors. They’re pressed, the juice fermented, then it’s put in oak for a time before bottling. The version made from white grapes is a beautiful amber color and quite aromatic.
“Vin Santo is a full-bodied, typically very sweet dessert wine with aromas of hazelnut, caramel, honey, tropical fruit, perfume and dried apricot. It’s one of those wines that sticks to the side of your glass and yet, when you taste it there’s this crazy balance between its delicacy and its intensity.” WineFolly
Many areas in Italy produce Vin Santo but it’s most prevalent in Tuscany where 26 of the 41 DOCs make it. It ranges from dry (secco) to very sweet (dolce).
Although Vin Santo is made with many varieties, depending on where you are in Italy, the two most commonly used are native to the county: Trebbiano and Malvasia. But nothing is easy when it comes to Italian wine. Trebbiano is a huge family of grapes, as is Malvasia. The lower acid variety often used in Vin Santo is Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
The really great thing about Vin Santo is it’s classic pairing- Cantucci, the small Tuscan biscotti that’s not too sweet with a crunchy texture. It’s like goat cheese and Sancerre, or Sauternes and Foie Gras. They just go together perfectly.
We’ve partaken may times since our first big adventure, tipping a glass- or eight- of other passito style wines like Recioto di Soave and Recioto della Valpolicella.
Mark and I will enjoy several holiday meals this year given our crazy travel schedule. The good part about that? Someone else is doing all the cooking. But we’ll be bringing Vin Santo and Cantucci!
Look for the following posts from our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT). It’s sure to be a delicious month! And join our Twitter chat live on Saturday, December 2nd at 8:00 a.m. PST / 11:00 a.m. EST / 5:00 p.m. in Italy. On Twitter, type #ItalianFWT in the search bar at the top right to follow the conversation. And feel free to join with any comments or questions.
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures brings us “Sparkling Wine All Through the Christmas Dinner with D’Araprì Winery.”
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers up “Buon Natale, Baccalà, and Barolo.”
Tracy from The Traveling Somm shares “Tis the Season for Barolo.”
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish pens a piece entitled “Feast of the Seven Fishes and Wines to Match.”
Jill from L’Occasion writes “A Romantic Italian Christmas At Home.”
Our host for the month, Susannah Gold at Avvinare writes about “Prosecco DOCG and Chianti Rufina, Wines for the Christmas Feast.”
And again, here at Savor the Harvest we’re enjoying “A Vin Santo Holiday.”
Wine Geek Info
Map courtesy of Italian Wine Central
- The four, 100% Vin Santo DOCs in Tuscany are Vin Santo del Chianti, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, Vin Santo di Carmignano, and Vin Santo di Montepulciano (see map above)
- In Montalcino, it’s produced under the Sant-Antimo DOC
- Occhio di Pernice is the rosato version of Vin Santo made in Montepulciano
- Malvasia Bianca Lunga is the main type of Malvasia used in Vin Santo
- Recioto di Soave is made from the Garganega grape with the sometimes addition of Trebbiano di Soave. It also has it’s own DOCG
- Recioto della Valpolicella is Valpolicella’s red version made from the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes
It’s been a long time since I last tasted Vin Santo, and you’ve reminded me that I need to rectify that. Another great post, Lynn, especially the photos! I love the pics of BA1. Here’s wishing you and Mark a very happy holiday!
Thanks Lauren, glad I could bring Vin Santo to the forefront for you! Happy holidays to you and your hubby ;-D
I’m looking forward to belonging to this group and learning more about Italian wines. This is a great start. Thanks.
Look forward to you joining us Wendy, a great group of folks!
I haven’t tasted Vin Santo (think I saw it at Trader Joe’s), but love, love, love biscotti. Will have to go back and pick some of both up!
I’ve seen Vin Santo at Trader Joe’s too, it would be a great place to start with a bottle Gracie. Not sure about the biscotti but they’re super easy to make. Happy to share a recipe with you, just let me know 😉
I’ve only have vin santo once, it was recently. But it was a game changer! I’ve never found a dessert wine I liked before, but it was so delicious, tbh I’m somewhat obsessed with finding more vin santo now! Love this post!
Ah-ha! Yes Vin Santo, and sweet passito style wines stand out for sure. I like the nutty date-like flavors common in a Tuscan Vin Santo. You might want to look for Recioto di Soave and Recioto della Valpolicella, made with different grapes and different flavors but also tasty. Thanks for your comment Ashley!
Great post! I particularly liked the map. BTW, the photos made this article particularly interesting – thanks!
Thanks for stopping by Helena, glad you enjoyed the information ;-D
I’ve written a bit about appassimento, but have limited experience with it. I find it fascinating and am so pleased to read your insight here. Happy holidays!
I’ve had Vin Santo quite a bit, and a few other Passito style wines- including Amarone- but there are many more to try. Hoping we both get to try more in 2018 Jill!
I’ll bet it’s hard to find Italian dessert wine in Bordeaux! I haven’t had much vin santo but your story makes me interested in giving it another try.
Oh yeah! And (I think) you can find a decent bottle at TJs 😉
Looks like another wine I need to try, I need to start my search. Great article.
Thanks Lew- If you haven’t had a Vin Santo, definitely a nice sweet sip, great in place of dessert, and a fun wine for the holidays- cheers!
I’ve not had cantucci or Vin Santo but I know I know I love all things Italian. I am definitely going to seek out both.
Oh yes Ellen! Given what you said, I bet you’ll like both. Thanks for stopping by!