I love reading wine tasting notes in Italian. I always want to sing it back. For example, What is a vino da meditazione? It’s an intriguing term often seen in Italian wine notes. It looks like the word “meditation”, but it’s not quite.
Coined by famous Italian gastronome, Luigi Veronelli, meditazione is often used to describe sweet passito wines or red wines aged for a long time such as Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino.
From my Italian sources, a vino da meditazione can mean:
1. Calm, sweet wine (without bubbles);
2. Important red wines;
3. Wines with a long vinification process from vine to bottle such as Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (at least 5 years in oak), Barolo Riserva (5 years) or Vin Santo (8 years in oak);
4. A way to drink these wines with an attitude of understanding its complexity:”Stop and slow down – this wine should be approached calmly, reflectively to understand its complexity and composition”.
A classic vino da meditazione is Vin Santo (holy wine), a Tuscan sweet wine, which became popular during the Renaissance when Florentine Wine Merchants heavily marketed it to customers in Rome. These strong sweet wines were also popular for Church services as the high sugar levels and acidity mean they can be kept open for up to a year without a cork.
Like entering a dark Italian church filled with incense coiling up to a ceiling of shimmering gold in mosaic, the awe-inspiring Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC from Azienda Agricola Crociani is a classic vino da meditazione. From a winery that dates back to the 14th century in the heart of Montepulciano in Tuscany, the Crociani Vin Santo is aged for 9 years in oak before it is released. Amber in colour, it has extreme depth and amazing layers of raisin, hazelnut and a light caramel toffee. The excellent backbone of acidity across the palate holding the byzantine complexity together means it can be aged for up to 200 years.
A vino da meditazion commands quiet, respect and contemplation. Even in the most busiest of restaurants, or lives, this wine urges a pause to enjoy complexity and history in the glass. Little wonder it’s a concept not easily translatable into English.
Image: Bacchante on a Panther by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1855)
This post was originally published in July 2010 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.