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The wine of saints (vin santo) is a specialty of the Italian wine culture and many provinces produce their own version of this delectable libation. Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia are best known and reputed vin santo producing provinces.
In October to November ripe white grapes (In Tuscany Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia and Canaiolo are most popular followed by Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in the Pomino property of Frescobaldi; in Veneto Garganega and Gambellara are used; elsewhere local white grapes are preferred) are hand picked, rotten grapes removed and the bunches are hung from the rafter of vinsantaie, a room with many windows for vigorous air circulation.
Once the grapes have dried sufficiently which may last well into January, they are pressed and the juice is poured into caratelli (small chestnut barrels) for fermentation. After the initial fermentation the wine is racked, the caratelli sealed, and placed under the roof of the winery. Here the wine is subjected to diurnal and seasonal temperature changes, which impart a unique taste and texture to the wine.
Vin santo are generally sweet but some wineries produce off dry or dry versions. All are viscous in texture, high in alcohol, smooth and intensely flavoured.
Italians like to enjoy vin santo with a biscotti others prefer it with fresh seasonal fruits, and a few with their favourite pastry.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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