Wine Lover’s Italy – A Guide to Tuscany’s Vin Santo

A delicious plate of cantuccini with Tuscan vin santo.Italians have developed the knack for making wonderful alcoholic drinks to accompany their desserts, and the result is the many digestivi and dessert wines you will find to end your meal in Italy.

One of the most famous examples of this is the delicious Vin Santo, which illustrates how Italians pair a sweet wine with a dry dessert (in the case of Vin Santo with the well-known almond biscotti, or cantucci). The wine sweetens the dessert at the same time the dessert tempers the wine.

Vin Santo should definitely be on your “must try” list when you visit Italy on a culinary vacation!

Check out our tours of Tuscany. 

Cask of Vin Santo So, what is Vin Santo? The name literally means “Holy Wine.” There seems little consensus as to how the wine took on that name, perhaps simply because it was used during Mass. In any event, the name has been associated with this type of strong dessert wine for many centuries.

Vin Santo is usually 16-18 percent alcohol, and, even though it is made from white grapes (trebbiano, malvasia, or sometimes grechetto), is deep amber in color from the small casks—either oak or chestnut—in which it is aged. It is produced in various regions, but is known mostly as a Tuscan dessert wine.

Learn about Tuscan Wines. 

Drying grapes for Vin Santo How is it produced? First, the grapes are dried through appassimento (see our previous blog the Veneto region’s Amarone wine for details on this process). The dried grapes are pressed, the juice made into wine in small batches. The fermentation is slow, as is the aging (Vin Santi must be aged at least 3 years, although some producers will double or triple that), and the yield is a concentrated, amber elixir. (Fun fact: there are versions of Vin Santo made with mixed red and white grapes that yield a rose-colored Vin Santo called occhio di pernice—eye of the partridge).

Learn about more Italian digestivi such as Limoncello and Liquore alla fragola. 

Depending on the sweetness of the dried grapes, Vin Santi can range from dry to sweet. Production costs are high, yields are low, and this means good Vin Santi can be hard to find outside of Tuscany.

Traditional Tuscan cantuccini on a culinary tour of TuscanyIf you find a good bottle of Vin Santo, try pairing it with this recipe for cantuccini, the much-loved hard, almond cookie known by Americans as “biscotti”!

Learn about French dessert wines.

Looking for more traditional Tuscan dishes? Check out some of our favorite Tuscan recipes. Pair them with amazing Tuscan wines!

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.Or, check out more of our blogs featuring what we love about Tuscany:

By Peg Kern

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