Sweet wine, "holy" wine: the Tuscan Vin Santo

Sweet wine, "holy" wine: the Tuscan Vin Santo





The Vin Santo... And the Black Death!?The Vin Santo has always been part of the oenological landscape of Tuscany.There are different theories on the meaning and the source of the wording which defines it.You know Siena and Florence fight about everything: on the fatherhood of theVin Santo as well...According to Siena in 1348 a Franciscan monk cured the Black Death victims with a sweet wine which was used for serving mass: the wine was thought to be miraculous, then named "santo": holy.According to Florence during the 1439 Florence Council the Greek Cardinal Giovanni Bessarione, raising a wine chalice, toasted quoting the Xantos (Santorini) island, understood "santo", "holy" by the Florentines.What is share by the two versions, the connection with the mass celebration.Making the Vin Santo: grapes variety and the witheringThe Vin Santo is a vino passito, a sweet wine, made from different grapes in different Tuscan terroirs.The most used grapes are Trebbiano toscano and Chianti Malvasia, but the Vin Santo comes also from Canaiolo bianco, San Colombano (in Carmignano, Prato) and Sangiovese grapes (the Sangiovese for the "partridge eye" wine): different Vin Santo "recipes" are treasured in the family...The grapes withering is accomplished in different ways: over mats or in wooden boxes. The grapes bunches, or "ciocche" hung over ropes stretched from wall to wall; the difference between the systems is due in that the hanging bunches are constantly ventilated and they do not need other treatments, while the bunches placed on racks or mats have the drawback of having to be moved and periodically turned, to prevent them to get moldy.This process has been run in the famous "Vinsantaia", "the Vin Santo Room", a room that is specially set up during the period of the Vendemmia, the grapes harvest. The Vinsantaia is not part of the cellar, as it must be a well ventilated, healthy place, because the bunches have to spend there quite a long time (from a minimum of forty days to three months) in safe conditions (the time is a variable because of weather conditions and the sugar amount in the grapes).From the grapes to the grapes must...Three are the varieties of Vin Santo: dry (perfect along starters, served cold, matched with semi mature cheeses and blue cheeses: a true delicatessen…), semi-sweet and sweet; every winery produces a Vin Santo which best suites the grapes and the traditional making.When the grapes gain the right sugar level the single grapes are checked one by one, pressed and squeezed.The juice is mixed with grapes peels and allowed to stand still for a few days; then is pressed again and the must is poured in the “caratello”, a cask of durmast oak wood (but it can be of chestnut, acacia and cherry wood), which capacity ranges between 50 and 200 liters.In the Caratello the Vin Santo ferments and ages!The fermentation develops spontaneously because of the sugars, and as the cask is sealed, the fermentation is influenced by the temperature of the environment.The minimum aging period is three years, but obviously it is at the discretion of the winery. During this period, the Vin Santo should be poured from a cask to another, to avoid possible harmful bacterial settlements. At the end of the aging a filtration process is needed, to separate any suspension from the liquid. Last but not least...Try the Vin Santo with the Cantuccini di Prato for a perfect yummy, Tuscan experience!