THAT SWEET SMOOTH STYLISH ITALIAN.
CROCIANI VIN SANTO DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006. (£19.49, 37.5 cl, www.waitrosecellar.com)
Vin Santo is not so well known and it’s not cheap but boy, it’s good!! This unfortified sweet white wine is produced in the vineyards of Pomino, Carmignano, Bolgheri, Chianti Classico and Montepulciano in Italy’s picturesque Tuscany region. Take a sip of the Montepulciano Vin Santo …… you’re in heaven!
The wine is a passito, which means that the wine has been made with grapes that have been left to air dry on mats which results in the grapes becoming raisin-like and sugar packed. In general, the grapes used for Vin Santo are Trebbiano and Malvasia; that said, the Crociani is made from 100% Malvasia.
After drying, the grapes are then crushed and put into very small (generally 50 litres) oak barrels called ‘caratelli’ together with the ‘madre’; a little wine left over from the previous year, which itself contains a tiny quantity of wine from the previous year …. and so on. After a slow, a very slow, fermentation, the juice stays sealed in the caratelli for years; 3 to 6 years is not unusual. Impressively, the Crociani spent 8 years in caratelli before bottling! During these long years the white juice deepens to gold as it becomes amber nectar.
If you want another impressive statistic, it took 100 kilos of Malvasia grapes to produce just 11 litres of this Crociani Vin Santo di Montepulciano! What’s more, the Crociani Vin Santo is fermented in less than a dozen ‘caratelli’ each year; now you’ll understand why it’s 20 quid for half a bottle.
Vin Santo means ‘The Holy Wine’, a name that was borne in Italy’s northern Trentino region. Vin Santo’s still made in Trentino but there are a couple of differences between the “V.S” sweeties of Tuscany and Trentino.
Firstly, the winemakers of Trentino call their wine Vino Santo, (not Vin Santo) and whereas the Tuscans dry their grapes on mats, in Trentino the grapes are generally left on their bunches to hang-dry in airy wineries, traditionally until Holy Week, just before Easter. Hence the religious link.
But be careful, there is very little consistency when it comes to Vin Santo as each winemaker has his or her own way of making this little piece of heaven. It may be sweet, medium sweet or even dry but don’t worry, the Crociani is definitely sweet. Beautifully sweet, and crisply, beautifully balanced.
Vin Santo’s apricot, nut, honey, almond, fig and caramel flavours will take you right up those golden stairs and through the pearly gates. Quick tip; try your Vin Santo with one of those wonderful Italian almond biscuits; bet you can’t resist dipping it into the Vin Santo! ‘Think you’ll be allowed to dip up there too!