“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” …… Paulo Coelha, Brida

If Paulo is correct in saying that all wines should be tasted, it would be remiss of me not to talk about this wine.  You already know from the name that it’s an Italian wine.  More specifically, it’s from the region of Tuscany; the sub-region of Vin Santo del Chianti Classico.  But don’t let use of the word “Chianti” mislead you. Although the sub-region includes the words “Chianti Classico” (a D.O.C.), this is not a wine of blended Sangiovese grapes, nor does it taste anything like it.  Not only are the grapes used in the making of this unusual wine different, but how those grapes are vinfied is a story in itself – and one that should instill respect in your heart for this wine being a labor of love.

Let’s start with the grapes: Trebbiano and Malvasia.  Italy, remember, is the land of over 900 grape varieties so when you’re expanding your experience with Italian wines, you’re likely to encounter fun new tastes.  The grapes are picked toward the end of September with the best bunches (no bruises and and loosely packed berries) taken to the vinsantaia.  The vinsantaia is a loft where the grapes are hung in bunches by chains and left to dry until February.  Thanks to the climate in Vin Santo, with cold but dry winters, the grapes are not subject to rot.  And numerous, large windows kept open throughout this time provide constant air circulation.  If you’re familiar with the process of appassimento (see http://www.winemizer.net/2013/05/amaqrone-della-valpolicella.html ) in the making of Amarone, think similarly.

In February, the grapes are sufficiently dried to assure the Vinsanto
will have a high alcohol content and the residual sugar necessary for the long fermentation.  Only now are the grapes pressed and, after a natural process of clarification, the must is poured into small oak casks which still contain the lees of the finished Vinsanto that had just been removed. These lees start the fermentation process which can last up to five years!  (no, that’s not a typo – five year’s fermentation).  Finally, the Vinsanto is racked from the lees, clarified and bottled – usually in smaller 375ml bottles.

The bottle size is appropriate since the wine itself is more desert appropriate. In the glass, it shows medium amber and offers tastes of burnt sugar, caramel and candied orange peel.  At 16.5% alcohol, it’s a powerful finish to a meal and a wine to warm you up in winter. Though a desert wine, it’s not sweet in the way of a Sauterne, Tokay or “late harvest” anything. I find it more akin to a Marsala in texture.  

A purpose of this blog is to introduce you, perhaps, to different grapes; to bring you along the wonder-journey of winemaking and to introduce different tastes and textures into your glass.  Vin Santo will do that.  And while it may not be a style of wine you prefer for daily consumption, experiencing it will broaden your awareness of how long (this method of drying grapes is centuries old) and how patiently (five year fermentation!) winemakers work to give their wine a sense of place when you’re enjoying it.

…………………. Jim

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Composition:             Trebbiano 60%   Malvasia Bianca del Chianti 40%
Alc:                              16.5%
TA:                               7.6g/L

RS:                               148g/L

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