Vin Santo is an Italian dessert that feels like a cross between a wine and a whiskey. Usually getting up to 16%-18% alcohol, it takes its amber colour from the small chestnut or oak casks that it is aged in. It has beautiful flavours such as nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, and raisin. Because of its sweetness, you’ll find that Vin Santo is excellent with biscotti, ginger desserts, cupcakes, dark chocolate and pecan pie.
Vin Santo is commonly made from Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Grechetto grapes (although you’ll find Vin Santo made with a blend of red and white grapes as well, such as Malvasia and Sangiovese) that are dried for three to six months. The dried grapes are then pressed where the juice is vinified in small casks. Fermentation and maturation takes three-plus years before the wine is bottled. Due to the small casks used, the number of years it takes, and the natural evaporation that occurs during its cask time, Vin Santo can be tough to come by in a store, however, it is well worth seeking out.
Vin Santo and Biscotti
The name Vin Santo translates to Saint Wine (Holy Wine) because it, or a variant of it, was popularly served at Catholic Mass. In modern Italy, it is typically served as a digestive at the end of a meal after espresso, and considered a vini da meditazioni (meditation wine) as it is meant to be sipped slowly. It is commonly paired with a ‘dry’ biscotti, which is less sweet than Vin Santo. This pairing is amazing, especially if you dip your biscotti into the wine as the wine softens the dry cookie, while the cookie cushions the intense blow of this sweet wine.
Best Wine with Desserts
Other great dessert pairings are Crostata di Frutta, blackberry mini tartlettes, ginger desserts, pumpkin pie, dark chocolate, nutty desserts like pecan pie, and panforte. For the best results, you want a less sweet dessert to pair up with this sweet wine. This way, the wine brightens the flavours in the dessert. Vin Santo will still pair nicely with sweet desserts like ice cream, or cupcakes, but the pairing won’t be as mind-blowing amazing as a dry dessert-like biscotti.
Pairing Vin Santo with Food
For non-desserts, try Vin Santo with Gorgonzola Cheese, a handfull of dried fruit and almonds, mince pies, Canadian Bacon, Honey Baked Ham, Figs, and rich pâtés or seared foie gras.
Vin Santo is made throughout Italy. However, Tuscan Vin Santo is the most common, and most reliable in terms of consistency. You’ll often hear ominous tales of Vin Santo producers who cut their wine with spirits to bring up the alcohol level and adding caramel for colouring. Avoid these producers! Tuscany Vin Santo should not have this problem as Tuscany has three recognized DOC’s which are:
1. Vin Santo del Chianti
2. Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
3. Vin Santo di Montepulciano
Do you have a favourite Vin Santo and Food Pairing? Let us know in the comments below!
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