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Vin Santo?

Posted: Jul 19, 2007 1:09pm ET

I tasted about two dozen Vin Santos today in my office in a blind tasting, and I was wondering, how many of you out there drink these unique wines from Tuscany? I occasionally pull a cork on a bottle for dessert during a dinner party with friends, but I must say that I am not a big drinker of them.

I know a lot of people like to drink them with almond biscotti. Many like to dunk them in their Vin Santo before gobbling them up. I like Vin Santo with ice cream. In fact, I like ice cream with everything, especially now, when its about 110 degrees during the afternoon. It is so hot right now! I am ready to die …

Vin Santo normally comes in two styles, sweet and dry or sherry-like. I much prefer the former since it goes nicely with various desserts from freshly sliced fruit like peaches to chocolate. The dry, or sherry-like ones are better as an aperitif. But I am not very keen on them in general.

Surprisingly, there do appear to be differences among vintages. Most of the ones I tasted today came from either 2000 or 2001. The latter produced the better Vin Santos. Generally, the better the vintage for red, the better the vintage for Vin Santo. At least, that is what I have found over the years.

The best producer is Avignonesi. But it is a law unto itself. About 100 to 190 cases of the nectar is made each year and bottled in half bottles. It’s like syrup more than wine. In fact, you can’t really drink it. I like it over fruit or ice cream. But it’s a very expensive dessert topping!

John Miller
Windsor, CA —  July 19, 2007 3:02pm ET
I've occasinally had Vin Santo and enjoyed them, but unlike you, I have enjoyed some of the drier ones. I don't think I have had a bone dry or extremely sweet one. The ones I have had have been sort of in between. Falchini makes an inexpensive off-dry one that springs to mind, that as you say, is more like an aperitif wine than a dessert wine.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  July 19, 2007 3:31pm ET
James, I so much agree with you on vin santo. My favorite is definitely the vin santo de Isole e Olena. I love the work of Paolo di Marchi and their vin santo di chianti clasico is outstanding, honey like nectar, and it's a pleasure by itself with no pairing posible.
thanks for the post
Tom Breneman
eau claire, WI —  July 19, 2007 5:21pm ET
Was first introduced to it last year on first trip to Tuscany.... never knew such a thing exsisted. My wife loves the stuff which is great for me too!!! We have had Antinori and Vignemaggio, both we have enjoyed very much with biscotti. Thanks for the review.
Scott Oneil
UT —  July 19, 2007 5:30pm ET
I've very much enjoyed Felsina's, but then I enjoy just about everything from Felsina. :) My girlfriend used some left-over 1993 Felsina Vin Santo (leftover? - clearly that was an oversight) to cook some skinless chicken, and it made the most amazing glaze/carmelization on the chicken. Tasty enough to sacrifice some next time around.
Rob Stenhouse
NY, NY —  July 19, 2007 6:14pm ET
James - I first tasted Vin Santo back in May while in Tuscany on my honeymoon. While visiting Fanti we tasted their 2001 vin santo and were blown away, it was unlike most other dessert wines we'd tasted before. We ended up with a couple of half bottles in our suitcases to bring home.
Michael Culley
Montepulciano, Italy —  July 20, 2007 5:27am ET
I find vin santo a bit like chianti classico. There are a lot of good ones but you don't always know what you are getting from the label. I have come to identify the styles as either fresher(and a bit sweeter)or sherry-like. I prefer the former and around here I have found the Fattoria del Cerro to be one of the better buys. I, like you James, could eat ice cream with anything poured on it. I finally had a chance to drink the Avignonesi and found it more like a Commandaria from Cyprus than most vin santo. It took four of us three days to drink a half bottle!
Brent Rupnow
Valley Village, CA —  July 20, 2007 5:13pm ET
Has anyone tried any Vin Santo Occhio del Pernice? I understand that it's a red Vin Santo. I've never seen any here in Los Angeles otherwise I'd snap it up out of curiosity. Don't know if it's any good though...
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  July 20, 2007 10:57pm ET
I've only had the dry version and wasn't impressed, but then again I don't like dry sherry either. It was too bitter and flat. I'm looking forward to trying some sweet versions when we arrive in Tuscany this September. James, are there any other producers I should try beside Avignonesi?
Alan Snitow
NJ/NYC —  July 21, 2007 1:32am ET
James, not to hijack your post, but knowing your dad is in San Diego, can you reco any wineries to visit in Temecula? thanks!
James Suckling
 —  July 21, 2007 2:43am ET
Alan: Sorry I can't help you. I haven't been to a winery in Temecula in years.
Antonio Nieto
celaya —  July 21, 2007 7:54am ET
hi james,this note is to see your point of view on the following: I am in Italy right now and i have been to several restaurants in florence,portofino,sirmeone, venece and now cortina, as you are aware the weather is very hot, close to 37degrees. Iam very shocked that in any restaurant i have been to, the wine has been served chilled or came from a refrigerated cellar. I wonder now if this hype is from american culture. or are we giving to much attention to wine because the same happened to me in Spain. here in europe they just don't seem to bother too much if the glasses are reidel, if the wine is uncorked ahead of time, or if its hot or not.let me know your thoguhts
Albert Jochems
The Netherlands —  July 21, 2007 5:01pm ET
I actually had a vin santo with cantucci last night. After a simple but delicious dinner in a small ristorante in Castelnouvo de'll Abate. The vin santo and the cantucci where just so so. But the beautifull view of St. Antimo, the presence of my wife and kids and the sound of the gregorian mass we just visited in the abby of St. Antimo made it an unforgettable experience.
BTW it has been quite hot over the past few days. I'm also trying to discover/taste a few wines from the region where our house is situated (near Ribolla). The Maremma/Montereggio region seems to be comming up with better wines every year.
How do you do your tasting under these circumstances? Aircondition always seem to flatten my palate and nose. And at high temperature every wine seems to soften a little bit. This leaves for me the evening, when the see breeze brings refreshment.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  July 21, 2007 10:30pm ET
Alan, Stuart Cellars, Hart, Churon, Bailey and Leonesse are the only ones I've found to be any good in Temecula. Ofila isn't in Temecula but is another decent winery in the SD area.
Jason Kadushin
Seattle, WA —  July 23, 2007 7:18pm ET
I like Vin Santo - much more prefer the obscure Moscato Rosa - its so different on so many fronts - nose, taste, aftertaste and color.
Farhana Haque
Queens, NY —  July 24, 2007 1:10pm ET
I've just returned from vacation in Italy. Was in Florence and Montepulciano towards the beginning of the trip. A friend had recommended I try some vin santo with biscotti after having biscotti with moscato at one of his dinners (milk and cookies will never be the same). After trying it there, I decided to buy a bottle in Montepulciano with a bag of biscotti from the Mercato Centrale, and the rest of the days on my vacation ended with a glass and some well-dipped biscotti. I think I may have overdone it as I ran out before the trip did!
Mike Vessa
East Williston,NY —  July 24, 2007 9:13pm ET
James, Just this Sun night(or was it morning??) returned from two weeks of pure bliss in Tuscany. Having been a strict Sambucca and espresso man, I've now been converted to a Vin Santo and biscotti man...it more than made up for all beverages served semi-freddo..Italians have no concept of an ice-cold frizzante even in 100 degree heat..Thank you for your archived articles on Tuscany..Poggio Antico was stupendous and Giovanni Manetti sends his regards!! Mike Vessa
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  July 25, 2007 4:45am ET
How has the weather been in Tuscany this year? Better than Bordeaux I hope. It would seem that France has had awful weather continue through July.
Milisav M Tadich
Las Vegas, NV —  July 29, 2007 6:45pm ET
Just a quick note concerning Occhio del Pernice - YES and YES. It is red and it is from Avinognesi and YES I have a few bottles left, as well as 1993 Vin Santo from Felsina.I just tasted 1993 Vin Santo from Monsanto and it is the way I like it: Elegant, Sweet and great acidity on the finish - clean and long lasting!!!Mike

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