Discovering one of the oldest symbols of Tuscan hospitality.
Vinsanto is a sweet and precious wine because its preparation requires time, care, patience and respect for unwritten rules handed down from generation to generation.
It’s a sweet, amber-coloured wine, perfect to end a meal on a sweet note and strongly linked to Sienese and Tuscan traditions. It comes from selecting the best bunches of grapes left to dry slowly on wooden racks or hung on hooks, following rituals often jealously guarded even by individual families. The grape varieties used vary from area to area, but in and around Siena the most common are Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia and Sangiovese, the basic grape of the famous Chianti.
At the end of the drying period, the grapes are crushed and must be transferred into caratelle (typical sweet wine barrels) of different essences, from which the Vinsanto of the previous year has just been removed. At this point, the barrels are sealed and stored in the attic following tradition, as it was believed that the extreme temperature variations in summer and winter would benefit the fermentation and notes of the wine.
Are you wondering why it’s a wine that requires patience?
Because it takes a minimum of three years to get a good Vinsanto; some producers let it age for up to ten years so that it releases its full aroma and flavour.
Legends have flourished surrounding the origins of Vinsanto. It’s certainly a wine that has been around since very ancient times and was born to satisfy the wealthier classes, due to the onerous costs of production. From the 19th century onward, it also spread to the tables of the lower classes, who consumed it on festive occasions or to welcome friends and important guests.
According to one version that has reached us, the name comes from a misunderstanding of the word Xantos or Xanthos during a joke by Cardinal John Bressarion referring to a wine he was tasting. Indeed, the holy man is said to have exclaimed ‘This is the wine of Xantos!‘ possibly referring to a Greek wine from Santorini, Xantos in its original language. His diners, who had confused the word ‘Xantos’ with ‘santos‘ believed that he had discovered ‘holy’ qualities in the wine. In any case, from that time on, Vin Pretto was renamed Vin Santo.
A variation of the story has it that he used the word Xanthos (Greek for yellow) while talking about the wine.
Then there’s the version that says ‘Santo’ refers to the drying period of the grapes, which traditionally started on 1 NovemberAll Saints Day. Then we have the delightful Sienese tale of the Franciscan friar who used to cure the sick with the wine to celebrate mass during the Black Death of 1348, and given its miraculous properties they began to call it Vin Santo (Holy Wine).
Whatever its origin, Vinsanto remains one of the most typical expressions of Tuscan hospitality.It has always been paired with ‘cantuccini’, typical dry biscuits that are dunked in the wine at the end of a meal. We also recommend that you try pairing it with aged or blue cheeses as it will bring out their spicy notes, black crostini or cherries and almonds.