HISTORY of VINSANTO
Vin Santo refers to a type of wine made from grapes that have been partially raisinated prior to pressing and that are matured in an oxidative environment. Traditionally, these wines have been most closely associated with Tuscany—an association whose history goes back to at least the 14th century, and probably even further back. Customarily, they are served with cantucci, the traditional almond biscotti of Tuscany, to welcome guests. It was a common practice in antiquity to either partially raisinate grapes prior to crushing or boil the juice. Either process would concentrate sugars in the must prior to fermentation.
The practice would produce wines that had elevated levels of either residual sugar or alcohol. In both cases, high levels of sugar or alcohol helped preserve the wine and allowed for extended periods of aging. This tradition continued into the Middle Ages, where it gave rise to a group of wines termed “straw wines” throughout Europe, in reference to the practice of drying grapes on straw mats for several months after the harvest. MORE FOR YOU Vin Santo literally means holy wine. The origins of the term Vin Santo remain shrouded in mystery.
It may refer to the fact that the wine was often used in Catholic masses. Other suggested explanations include that the wine was considered miraculous since its elevated sugar levels would often appear to revive the sick or because it was typically pressed or, when matured, released for consumption around the Easter holiday. The Tuscany Region it is in Tuscany that Vin Santo has its broadest expression. There are over a dozen DOCs for Vin Santo in Tuscany. The three most important are Vin Santo del Chianti DOC, established in 1997, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, established in 1995, and Vin Santo di Montepulciano, established in 1996.
Within the Chianti zone, the heart of Tuscan Vin Santo production, there are two main Vin Santo producing regions: Vin Santo del Chianti DOC and the Colli dell Etruria DOC. Both DOCs cover a large portion of the Chianti region and include the sub-regions of Carmignano, Sant’Antonio and Montepulciano. All three of these sub-regions have their own DOC. Most of the Vin Santo exported from Italy comes from this area. The Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC region, the historic center of the Chianti region, is a separate DOC and has its own rules for making Vin Santo. Its production of Vin Santo is still quite small but is growing rapidly.
In addition, to the other Vin Santo DOC regions in Tuscany, other areas can produce Vin Santo wines even if they do not have a specific DOC for them. These wines are typically labled as vino da tavola (table wines). They tend to exhibit a broader array of styles and often represent exceptional values. Provinces of Tuscany Provinces of Tuscany. Tuscan Vin Santo must contain a blend of primarily Trebbiano and Malvasia, with the balance made up of local grape varieties such as Vermentino or Canaiolo Bianco.
The Vin Santo del Chianti DOC requires a minimum 70% blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. In the Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOC the minimum is 60%. The Pomino DOC, on the other hand, allows the use of a 60% to 80% blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, but this is an exception. As a general rule, the higher the percentage of Malvasia the better the resulting wine. Minimum percentages of Trebbiano and Malvasia vary by DOC. Although widely considered a dessert wine, Vin Santo can be produced in a variety of styles from Dolce, very sweet; Amabile, a less sweet wine Abboccato, a slightly sweet or off dry style; and Secco, dry. The latter can resemble a dry fortified wine like a Fino sherry, while the former can be reminiscent of a Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry.