Vin Santo, Italy's wine of friendship and hospitality is the traditional Italian dessert wine given as a gift or opened with friends.
Historically every Italian family made their own version of Vin Santo, which was consumed only by family members and sometimes their closest friends. To receive a bottle as a gift was a great honor and sign of respect. Only in recent years has Vin Santo started to be commercially produced. Much like Amarone, the Vin Santo grapes are picked and then left to dry, hanging from the barn rafters, for many months. This raisining process concentrates the sugars and leads to interesting flavoring development. Towards the end of fermentation, the Vin Santo juice is fortified with brandy, a jolt of straight alcohol stops the fermentation process while still leaving residual sugar in the wine.
The resulting wine is sticky and sweet with a beautiful golden color, high viscosity and flavors of apricot, honey and nuttiness. Traditionally served with a biscotti, I also find these wines to be great with a cheese, nut and fruit plate, a berry and nut torte or on it's own at the end of a meal.
Stores: Smith and Vine $12.00 (246 Smith Street btwn Douglass and Degraw, Brooklyn)