Sweet versions of Vin Santo pair best with biscotti, ginger desserts, cupcakes, tiramisu, dark chocolate and pumpkin pie.  Vin Santo comes in several styles, but the most popular is an ambered coloured Italian dessert wine that features exquisite butterscotch, caramel, nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, and raisin.

The name Vin Santo translates to Sacred Wine (Holy Wine) because it, or a variant of it, was served at Catholic Mass centuries ago.

How is Vin Santo Made?

In Tuscany, Vin Santo is made from Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Grechetto grapes, but not necessarily all three.  Red grapes such as Malvasia and Sangiovese may also be blended in and is called Occhio di Pernice, which translates to Eye of the Partridge due to its amber red colour.

For sweet Vin Santo, the grapes are then left to dry on straw mats or hung from strings in a well-ventilated area.  The longer they are left out to dry, the sweeter the pressed juice will be.

The dried grapes are then pressed where the juice is vinified in small 50-litre oak barrels. Fermentation and maturation takes three-to-six years before the wine is bottled. Due to the small casks used, the number of years it takes, and the natural evaporation that occurs during its cask time, you are left with a boozy (16%-17%) and concentrated golden sweet wine.

You may also find Vin Santo wines that are made in a dry style that is similar to a Fino Sherry.  For a dry style, you’d pair it up with similar foods as a dry Sherry as the wine will not be sweet, and its flavours would be demolished by a sweet dessert.   Fortified Vin Santo is another option, where the wine is similar to a port.  On the wine label, this will be referred to as Vin Santo Liquoroso.

Best Food with Vin Santo

Dessert WineVin SantoBiscotti
Dessert WineVin SantoPecan Pie
Dessert WineVin SantoGorgonzola Cheese
Dessert WineVin SantoChocolate
Dessert WineVin SantoFigs
Dessert WineVin SantoGinger Desserts - Gingerbread
Dessert WineVin SantoHazelnut Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoTiramisu
Dessert WineVin SantoPumpkin Pie
Dessert WineVin SantoCanadian Bacon
Dessert WineVin SantoHoney Baked Ham
Dessert WineVin SantoUmeboshi Tsukemono
Dessert WineVin SantoPenang Cuttlefish Salad
Dessert WineVin SantoFruit Cake
Dessert WineVin SantoCantucci
Dessert WineVin SantoPanforte
Dessert WineVin SantoAlmond Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoApple Dessert
Dessert WineVin SantoBread Pudding
Dessert WineVin SantoCake
Dessert WineVin SantoAlmond Cake
Dessert WineVin SantoCoffee Cake
Dessert WineVin SantoSpice Cake
Dessert WineVin SantoProvolone Cheese
Dessert WineVin SantoCookies with Nuts
Dessert WineVin SantoNut Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoFruit Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoPâté
Dessert WineVin SantoFoie Gras
Dessert WineVin SantoFruit Dried
Dessert WineVin SantoHoney Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoMacadamia Nuts
Dessert WineVin SantoNutty Desserts
Dessert WineVin SantoCupcakes
Dessert WineVin SantoIce Cream

Vin Santo & Biscotti Pairing

In Italy, Vin Santo is often served as a digestive at the end of a meal after espresso and considered a vini da meditazioni (meditation wine), which means it is meant to be sipped slowly.  Vin Santo and Biscotti is a ‘holy grail’ of a pairing as the dry biscotti is less sweet than the wine.  As the nutty almond flavours of the biscotti merge with the caramel, raisin, honey, and fruit flavours of the Vin Santo, the dry cookie cushions the intense blow of the sweet wine.  The wine also softens the dry biscuit and all of the flavours tease your taste buds as they heavenly mingle in harmony.

Vin Santo Wine & Pecan Pie Pairing

The caramel, butterscotch, almond, toffee, vanilla and toasted walnut flavours of Vin Santo complement the candied Pecan Pie filling to perfection.  While sweet, Pecan Pie isn’t as sweet as Ice Cream, which is important as you always want your wine to be sweeter than your dessert.  Otherwise, the wine’s flavours will disappear into the void created by the sweet nature of the dessert.  You’ll be fine if you include a scoop of French Vanilla Ice Cream on your Pecan Pie, as the pecan pie will help cut down the sugary sweetness of the ice cream.  However, for ice cream on its own, or another sweet dessert-like frosted cupcakes, Vin Santo will work, but it won’t be as delicious with a moderately sweet dessert.

Other great dessert pairings with Vin Santo are Crostata di Frutta, blackberry mini tartlets, ginger desserts, pumpkin pie, dark chocolate, fruit cake, walnut tarts, cantucci, and panforte. With these nutty, spicy or fruity desserts, you’ll always find complementary flavours in your Vin Santo, whether that is almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, or apricot.

Pairing Vin Santo & Honey Baked Ham Pairing

Vin Santo just isn’t for desserts and is outstanding with Honey Baked Ham which has a sweet flavour that is balanced by a tantalizing saltiness.  With its honeyed flavours, Vin Santo complements the Ham’s sweetness while serving up contrasting flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon and raisin that are further heightened by the saltiness in the Ham.  Canadian Back Bacon and Mortadella will work in a similar fashion as they are also sweet and salty.

Gorgonzola cheese, Roquefort cheese, Mascarpone, a handful of dried fruit and almonds, mince pies, figs, rich pâtés or seared foie gras or other delicious foods that pair up amazingly well with Vin Santo.  Just remember to only pour an ounce or two of this heavenly nectar of the Saints!

Additional Styles of Vin Santo

Vin Santo is made throughout Italy. However, Tuscany produces the best and most reliable Vin Santo. While you’ll still find exceptional Vin Santo outside of Tuscany, there are many commercial producers who cut their wine with spirits to bring up the alcohol level, add artificial flavouring, or add caramel in for colouring. Avoid these producers!

Tuscany has three recognized Vin Santo DOC’s which are:
1. Vin Santo del Chianti
2. Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
3. Vin Santo di Montepulciano

Best Vin Santo Producers

Reliable Vin Santo producers, are Avignonesi, Badia e ColtibuonoCappezzana, Fattoria, FrescobaldiFelsina, and Fontodi.  Like all passito wines, the best Vin Santo are made in small batches and will be quite expensive.  For the real thing, the price is worth it, and this is a wine that can age indefinitely as there is no risk of oxidization.