Vin Santo has been an important part of Tuscan wine history since the Middle Ages. There are many theories about the origin of its name. A legend from Siena tells of a friar who in 1348 cured the sick with the wine normally used by the brothers to celebrate mass. Word spread that this was a miraculous wine, leading to the name “santo,” or “holy,” — although another less picturesque explanation cannot be ruled out, which is simply the association of this wine with its customary use during the mass. The recognition of the Vin Santo del Chianti DOC in August 1997 marked an important stage in the quality evaluation of this highly traditional Tuscan wine.
The Vinsanto del Chianti Classico label features the Commenda di Sant’Eufrosino, the second of four churches built within the city’s walls. Attributed to Italian architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo (1396-1472), the church was built in 1443 by request of the Canigiani family who lived in Volpaia. One of the family members wished to join the Knights of Malta, a religious order and military brotherhood ruled by a “Grand Master” that answered only to the Pope. The Knights of Malta required that the Canigianis build a church in Volpaia before joining the religious order. The Commenda was deconsecrated in 1932 and declared a national monument in 1981. For 13 years, until 1993, the Commenda housed a renowned art collection. The Commenda is now used for dinners, tastings and other events and its basement contains one of Volpaia’s barrel-aging cellars.
Volpaia uses the same labor-intensive process that was used hundreds of years ago to produce its Vinsanto. Towards the end of the growing season, before Volpaia harvested its white grapes, the winery picked the best bunches of Trebbiano and Malvasia to go into the Vinsanto. The grapes were taken to the winery’s vinsantaia, a special attic where the bunches were hung from chains tied to the rafters and dried. The windows were kept open in the vinsantaia for the next few months, ensuring that the air in the large room was constantly being circulated. On February 10, once the grapes’ sugar reached optimum levels, they were pressed and the juice put through a natural process of clarification. The highly-concentrated must was then fermented for five years in small caratelli oak barrels already containing “madre,” or “mother,” -a remnant of the thick residue left over from Vinsanto that had already been bottled.
Scintillating amber. It is a full, balanced wine with intense flavors of cane sugar, apricot jam and sultan grapes. Warm and luscious with an almond finish.