What is vin santo?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What can you tell me about vin santo?

—Stephanie Lynn Gelberd, Irving, Calif.

Dear Stephanie,

Vin santo is a late-harvest wine from Italy, generally Tuscany. It’s usually made from white grapes, namely Trebbiano or Malvasia, that are semi-dried before being pressed and fermented; then the wines are stored in small barrels for up to 10 years, usually in attics which turn hot and cold with the seasons. There is a wide diversity in styles, from sweet dessert versions to dry, Sherry-like styles, and quality varies widely, too. Prices in our database for a half-bottle of vin santo range from about $15 upward to around $250. For the good stuff, you should expect to pay at least $30 or so.

Many, many years ago, when I was first falling in love with wine, friends brought back a bottle of vin santo from Italy along with a bag of tiny almond biscotti called cantucci. They showed me how to soften the biscotti in the wine, which made the rock-hard biscotti fun to nibble on and really brought out the nutty, dried fruit flavors in the wine. I’ve had a soft spot for vin santo ever since.

—Dr. Vinny

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