Vin Santo is one of Tuscany's treasures. This sweet golden wine has a characteristic caramel-nutty flavour which comes from the slow ageing of the wine in oak, chestnut or cherry-wood barrels. The wine making process is labour intensive and quite unlike that of a regular chianti wine.
The grapes used to make Vin Santo vary depending on the region. In Tuscany Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Columbano/Canaiolo are traditionally used. Once harvested they are hung for 3-6 months in a well ventilated room until the grapes have lost about half their volume or weight and are well on the way to becoming raisins. This stage is perilous for the grapes as there is risk of insect damage or mold if the air becomes too damp. These days most vineyards give nature a helping hand by putting an electric fan and dehumidifier in the room. Even so, many grapes are lost at this stage and have to be discarded. This is done by hand, one grape at a time.
These semi-dried grapes are then pressed to release their concentrated sugars and flavours which form the basis of the wine. Three years sealed in barrels exposed to ambient temperatures results in a strong sweet wine with a high alcohol content of 16-18 percent. Often served at the end of a meal with the dry 'biscotti' it has become the classic Tuscan way of finishing a meal or even the perfect end to a slow day in Tuscany.