At the end of a delicious Italian meal, when there is not much room for dessert, or better yet (since – let’s be honest – there’s ALWAYS room for dessert) as an after-dessert treat, there’s nothing nicer than sitting around the table enjoying a glass of the Italian dessert wine, Vin Santo.
There are, as with any great Tuscan tale, several versions of just why this treasured amber liquid is called Vin Santo – ‘Holy Wine’. Vin Santo is made by leaving the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes on the vine a little longer to allow the sugars inside the grapes to intensify. They are then hand-picked and carefully laid out to dry not in a cellar, but in the attic – that is, close to the saints.
The attic windows are covered with a light mesh to allow the air to pass through the attic, with glimpses of the stunning Tuscan surrounds visible beyond, so beautiful that we’re sure these views magically permeate through the skins and add to the deliciousness of the dessert wine.
Vin Santo is the juice of choice used in mass, and this is possibly the most likely reason why it is called ‘Holy Wine’.
Then there is the great legend that during the 1300s, the sweet Tuscan wine was given to help cure the sick who found this ‘miracle cure’ worthy of the saintly title.
Bottling also occurs at around Easter time, giving yet another holy association to this delicious dessert wine.
After the long drying process, once pressed the small amount of liquid that remains is intensely sweet. It is then placed into a particular barrel known as ‘caratelli’, in which is kept for even up to a decade. These little barrels have an opening which is plugged with cement, as any weaker sealer pops out due to the turbulent fermentation that takes place inside the barrels. Nonetheless on some occasions, from below the attic you can occasionally hear the bang of the cement caps flying off due the pressure building up inside the little wooden barrels.
Vin Santo is traditionally enjoyed with Biscotti di Prato – crunchy biscotti that are dipped into the sweet liqueur for the simplest and most delicious of Tuscan desserts. Biscotti di Prato is the traditional name for the cookie, but if you alter the original recipe, you must also change their name – either to ‘Cantucci’ or ‘Cantuccini’ (little Cantucci).
Immerse yourself in the stunning Tuscany countryside on the small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, including lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. Visit two Tuscan villas for tastings of award-winning wines on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour or stroll through the Tuscan countryside on the Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.
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