The sweet dessert wine Vin Santo – "holy wine" – is unique to Italy’s Tuscany region. Traditionally, winemakers dry grapes by hanging the harvested bunches up or arranging them on racks in attics or barns. After three or four months, the semidried grapes are full of concentrated sugars and flavors. After pressing, the juice is fermented in small wooden barrels, and aged for at least three years. The barrels are never completely filled, which exposes the wine to air. They’re also subject to varying temperatures throughout the year.
This treatment, which would wreak havoc on ordinary table wine, can have a delicious effect on Vin Santo. The wine emerges from aging with a characteristic nutty, caramel flavor, a deep golden color and an alcohol content that ranges from 14 to 17 percent. Vin Santo is typically made with Trebbiano and Malvasia grape varieties. A red Vin Santo may also be produced from Sangiovese.