2001 Fattoria Viticcio Vin Santo "Dolce Arianna"

For those of you who read my blog primarily for the autobiographical/creative nonfiction posts, I assure you that one of those will be coming up very shortly. For the rest of you, here's another wine and recipe combo!

This week, we have finally landed in Tuscany--Italy's most renown wine region. As someone who was lucky enough to study abroad in this region, I can attest to the fact that it is every bit as idyllic as it seems. I'll never forget the day my Art History class took a field trip to the village of Vinci-- you know, Leonardo's hometown? We visited the Leonardo Da Vinci museum, as well as the home he grew up in. It was surrounded by rolling hills of grape vines amidst cottages with rust colored roof tops. It was classic and serene. It was the Italy of my imagination.

One thing about Tuscany that I can say with utmost confidence is that as long as the world keeps on spinning, it probably won't change. The Italians won't be plowing down cyprus trees and leveling out mountainsides in order to build new shopping centers. In fact, most of their buildings don't even have elevators because they were built hundreds of years ago. My apartment in Florence didn't have an elevator or a phone line. Everything was antique and simple, and in Tuscany, there's a certain beauty to that.

2001 Fattoria Viticcio Vin Santo "Dolce Arianna" ($24.99 at Wine Country)

Vin Santo means holy wine and was given its name because Catholic priests have been drinking it for centuries during mass. It is a sweet dessert wine that is typically served after the post-dinner round of espressos. It's the most expensive bottle of wine I have tasted so far for this wine blog, and also the most difficult to find. I had to go to a specialty wine shop to get it, and for your convenience, I've posted links on the left hand side of this page to other awesome wine shops throughout California (for those of you who don't live in Long Beach and can't drive down the street to Wine Country).

You're welcome.

According to my Wine Bible, the main reason Vin Santo is so expensive and not mass-produced is because it takes a very long time to make. The winemakers begin by drying the grapes so that the water inside them evaporates, leaving the remaining sugar to be extra concentrated. Then the grapes are crushed and placed into various types of wooden barrels where they are left to ferment for a period of three to five years.

When I read the words "Italian dessert wine," I was expecting it to resemble a sweet Muscato, but now that I have tasted it, I would say Vin Santo more closely resembles a port wine. It has an extremely high alcohol content per volume (this one has 17.5%) with a tangy vanilla scent. It is the color of scotch -- a golden brownish hue -- and tastes like syrupy brown sugar. With a kick, of course.

In all honesty, I wasn't enamored with this wine. It was a bit too strong for my taste. However, my friend Stacy and I did thoroughly enjoy the Cantucci Biscotti we paired with it. Vin Santo is meant to be paired with biscotti, and I have a quick and easy recipe for you, below. Even if you don't decide to try a bottle, I would still highly recommend the biscotti for dipping in coffee, or even milk. It tastes like almondy deliciousness, and is very low in calories.

Cantucci Biscotti (adapted from this recipe)

2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 cup Amaretto (drive your butt over to BevMo and check out their selection of teeny, tiny 50 ML-sized bottles of liqueur)
1 cup unsalted dry toasted sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in one bowl, then get out a separate bowl to combine the eggs, vanilla, and Amaretto. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and as it becomes more sticky and doughy, add the almonds and thoroughly mix it all with your hands.

Shape the dough into a long rectangle that is 3 inches wide and 15 inches long, then place it on a greased cookie sheet. Bake it in the oven for 20 minutes, then take out and let cool.

Once it has cooled, slice the rectangle cross-wise into 3/4 inch slices.

Place these pieces on the cookie sheet slice-side down and then bake them again for 15 minutes.

Serve them dipped in Vin Santo or a big cup of coffee.