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Italian Dessert Wine

Learn about Italian dessert wine, common tasting notes, where the region is and more ...

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For this look at Italian dessert wine, we will omit sweet sparkling options like Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante, which are covered in our discussion of Italian sparkling wine. We will also pass on sweet Vermouth and Barolo Chinato, both of which more typically serve as an aperitif or an ingredient in various cocktails. The country in fact produces hundreds of different sweet wines, but we will limit our focus to the following three classics.

One of the best-known Italian dessert wines is Vin Santo (“holy water”), produced in many parts of Italy but most widely in Tuscany, where it is commonly enjoyed after a meal with a type of biscotti called cantucci. Vin Santo is a passito wine, meaning it is made from grapes that have been dried for several months before fermentation, which can last for years. Typically, a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia, Vin Santo can be made in dry or off-dry styles. But the best known versions are rich, complex and sweet, offering delectable notes of caramel, hazelnut, honey and dried apricot. Fortified examples do exist, but the finest are not fortified, coming in at 13%-14% alcohol.

Another passito Italian dessert wine option is Passito di Pantelleria, from the island of the same name. This of course is made in a similar manner as Vin Santo, although the passito juice is blended with fresh juice just before fermentation. But here the grape is Zibibbo, also known as Muscat of Alexandria. Beautifully aromatic as well as bursting with jammy flavors of figs, dates and apricots, this is lusciously sweet, and also about 14% alcohol.

Finally, we have to mention the fortified Italian dessert wine, Marsala. While commonly thought of today as a cheap cooking wine, Marsala at its best is remarkable. It is made from a variety of indigenous grapes grown near the Sicilian port city of Marsala and can be dry, semi-sweet or very sweet. The color also varies, with the three types being golden, amber and ruby – the latter actually quite rare. Another key variable is the amount of barrel aging, ranging from one year to ten. Production methods can also vary, but the most impressive types are made via a fractional blending process that is similar to the Sherry solera system. These Marsalas, especially those with five or more years in wood, offer tremendous richness and complexity to rival that of fine tawny Ports and oloroso Sherries.

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  • Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice (375ML half-bottle) 2006 Front Label
    Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice (375ML half-bottle) 2006
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  • Il Poggione Vin Santo (500ML) 2006 Front Label
    Il Poggione Vin Santo (500ML) 2006
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  • Felsina Vin Santo (375ML half-bottle) 2006 Front Label
    Felsina Vin Santo (375ML half-bottle) 2006
    Other Dessert from Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
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    • Gilt LES CRETES LES ABEILLES 2006 Front Label
      Gilt LES CRETES LES ABEILLES 2006
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        • Donnafugata Ben Rye (375ML half-bottle) 2006 Front Label
          Donnafugata Ben Rye (375ML half-bottle) 2006
          Other Dessert from Sicily, Italy
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          • San Vito Malmantico Vin Santo del Chianti 2006 Front Label
            San Vito Malmantico Vin Santo del Chianti 2006
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              • Viticcio Dolce Arianna Vin Santo 2006 Front Label
                Viticcio Dolce Arianna Vin Santo 2006
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                  • Lanciola Vin Santo 2006 Front Label
                    Lanciola Vin Santo 2006
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                      • Ambra Vin Santo di Carmignano 2006 Front Label
                        Ambra Vin Santo di Carmignano 2006
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                          • Fantinel La Roncaia Picolit 2006 Front Label
                            Fantinel La Roncaia Picolit 2006
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                              • Mastrojanni Botrys Toscana 2006 Front Label
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                                  • Jermann Vino dolce della Casa Picolit 2006 Front Label
                                    Jermann Vino dolce della Casa Picolit 2006
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                                      • San Felice Vinsanto del Chianti Classico 2006 Front Label
                                        San Felice Vinsanto del Chianti Classico 2006
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                                          • Azienda Agrecola Ca' la Bionda Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Tordare 2006 Front Label
                                            Azienda Agrecola Ca' la Bionda Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Le Tordare 2006
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                                              • Dievole Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2006 Front Label
                                                Dievole Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2006
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                                                  • Pietro Beconcini Caratello Vin Santo del Chianti 2006 Front Label
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                                                      • La Montecchia Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio Donna Daria Passito 2006 Front Label
                                                        La Montecchia Colli Euganei Fior d'Arancio Donna Daria Passito 2006
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                                                          • Fattoria del Cerro Vinsanto di Montepulciano Antonio da Sangallo 2006  Front Label
                                                            Fattoria del Cerro Vinsanto di Montepulciano Antonio da Sangallo 2006
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                                                              • Rocca di Montegrossi Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2006 Front Label
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                                                                • Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Sagrantino Passito 2006 Front Label
                                                                  Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Sagrantino Passito 2006
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                                                                    • Castello di Bossi Vin San Laurentino 2006  Front Label
                                                                      Castello di Bossi Vin San Laurentino 2006
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                                                                        • Azienda Agricola Viviani Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2006 Front Label
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                                                                            • Frescobaldi Castello di Pomino  Vin Santo 2006 Front Label
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                                                                                • La Spinetta Passito Oro Must Partially Fermented Moscato 2006 Front Label
                                                                                  La Spinetta Passito Oro Must Partially Fermented Moscato 2006
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                                                                                    • Abraxas Vigne di Pantelleria Passito di Pantelleria 2006 Front Label
                                                                                      Abraxas Vigne di Pantelleria Passito di Pantelleria 2006
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