UPDATE: There's a comment below with more detail from Jeremy Parzen about the disambiguation between Vin Santo and Vinsanto. He further elaborated on the topic in a separate blog post with far more detail. I'd encourage you to check it out for some solid research that clears up a lot of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the two products.
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Vin Santo/Vinsanto is more more of a style of wine than a protected trademark, so it's made in a few different places under various monikers. In general you take white grapes and let them dry on straw mats until they resemble raisins, then make a sweet dessert wine from the concentrated, sugary juice. (Contrast to Sauternes, Tokaji, and Trockenbeerenauslese, where noble rot dries and shrivels the grapes while still on the vine.) The style most likely originated around Tuscany, where there are a wide range of protected DOCs with specific regional names.
Once again courtesy of Constance, this is the 2003 Santo Wines Vinsanto from the Greek island of Santorini. $40/500mL, 11% abv. It's a blend of
75% Ασύρτικο/Assyrtiko and 25% Αηδάνι/Aidani. It has a rich copper hue to it, and due to seven years of aging, there are some thick chunks of sediment down at the bottom. (The back of the bottle contains an explanation for the sediment, and you'll want to decant carefully when serving.) We served it chilled, but I think it holds up well near room temperature. Just don't let it get too warm.
Beautiful aroma of golden raisins and brandy, with deep flavors of stewed fruit. It has firm acidity which balances nicely against the sweetness. I shared this with a group of friends who had differing levels of wine experience, and it was well-received. Despite the fact that it reminded a lot of people of brandy, it's only 11% alcohol and thus is a lighter option for an after-dinner drink. Vin Santo definitely goes great with a selection of cheeses. We used Stilton and Brie, the latter having been roasted and topped with macadamia nuts and honey by my brother.
I didn't start keeping notes on wines until 2004, and the blog didn't start until 2005. But I do have a few odds and ends in old journals, and I can state authoritatively that the first time I had Vin Santo was on December 23, 1996 at a little trattoria in Siena with a college girlfriend. I had no idea what it was, and just picked something at random off the dessert list. I knew it meant "saint wine", or "holy wine", but didn't know if that referred to a soaked cake or a wine-based custard or what. (You never know with dessert names. Shoofly pie and snickerdoodle lend zero information about their contents, to grab two random American examples.) What we got was a bottle of Vin Santo, little thimble-sized glasses, and tiny biscotti called cantuccini. Pour some of the wine, dip the cantuccini, enjoy. Much better than dipping cookies in milk or coffee, I assure you.
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Quick Greek lesson from the label: the tagline says "Οίνος Φυσικώς Γλυκός - Λιαστός"
οίνος = oinos = wine (the study of wine is called "oenology" because of this)
φυσικώς = physikos = natural (physics is the "natural science")
γλυκός = glukos = sweet (which is where we get the simple sugar "glucose")
λιαστός = liastos = sun dried (this comes from helios, meaning sun, like how plants and scantily-clad beach babes are heliotropic because they turn towards the sun)
So the translation right below is almost word for word. "Naturally sweet wine from sun dried grapes." Never hurts to learn some Greek, even if there's the challenge of a different alphabet. And hey, this wine would go great with a nice warm slice of π.
Note: This was received as a sample from Santo Wines.