vin santo - wine of the saints

One of the many delights that I was introduced to in my time journeying in Italy was the discovery in a small Trattoria of Italy's wine of saints - "Vin Santo".

 It is normally made as a sweet wine, but dry and semi-dry versions also exist. Typically it is quite viscous with a rich golden colour, high alcohol content and smooth, intense, sweet and nutty flavour.

 Unlike other sweet wines, the grapes ( generally Trebbiano, Malvasia and Canaiolo ) are not allow to wither on the vine and develop fungal infection to intensify their flavour. Instead they are hand picked when fully ripe, carefully checked to remove all damaged or infected fruit, then placed on cane mats in a well ventilated room to dry for up to 4 months.

 Once the grapes have been dried they are pressed to release their concentrated juice which is then placed in small chestnut barrels called "caratelli" to ferment. After this first fermentation is complete the barrels are sealed and placed in racks under cover but still able to be subjected to daily and seasonal temperature changes.

 The wine is kept in the catelli for at least 4 years and undergoes further fermentations that impart the unique texture and sweet and nutty taste to the wine. It is then bottled and improves in richness and bouquet over years ( decades ) of storage.

 The best examples of Vin Santo come from Tuscany, Umbria and the Veneto and it is wonderful with seasonal fruits, desserts, pastries or typically, as I enjoyed it, by eating biscotti that have been dunked into a small chilled glass of this saintly wine.

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