Legit Italian right there.
Legit Italian right there.
Photo by Kate McLean

Perfect Pairings: Vin Santo and Biscotti at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Want to look super cultured the next time you dine at an Italian restaurant? All right, all right, I got you; and it's a win-win too because the pair happens to be delicious. Ask your server if they offer Vin Santo by the glass, and then ask if they happen to make biscotti too. Sure, you could check the menu, but if you ask, it lets them know, that you know what's up.

And if you don't know what's up that's OK, too. That's where helpful servers, wine stewards or management come to the rescue. In the silent assessment of server to guest and back again; key words are used that place guests in control, servers in control, or the perfect balance.

But I digress; Vin Santo and biscotti: the milk and cookie finish to any well made Italian meal. I know for sure that Giacomo's Cibo e Vino, 3215 Westheimer, serves these two together. Lynette Hawkins, owner and chef, has an excellent grasp of Italian wine; it's evident in the list she's procured as well her auto-garnish of three biscotti every time you order a pour of Vin Santo.

The biscuit-y almond biscotti lets up just enough when dipping, and the wine, well, there's no wonder it was branded "Holy" many years ago. Dates, caramel, and sometimes tropical fruit awaken on your palate around the third sip.

Vin Santo is made all over Italy, but primarily in Tuscany, and typically with the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. Remember in Gladiator when Russell Crowe keeps tripping out that he's walking through a field touching wavy grass? That's Tuscany.  [Editor's note: We've been informed that Maximus walked through Spanish fields of wheat.]

Though grapes and terroir differ in the production of this wine, the process is the same. Harvested in the Fall, grapes are allowed to dry out for several months on straw mats. Water evaporates; sugars concentrate. They are then pressed and begin fermenting in oak barrels; where they rest for a minimum of three years. Just like vampires, the longer those grapes stay down the better.

Depending on the producer, and the grape of course, Vin Santo can be dry or sweet; but it's commonly sweet. So, a good rule of thumb is to serve it cold.

The Vin Santo that Hawkins offers is called Fattoria Bini '65 Lune' Vin Santo del Chianti, and the vintage is 2007. And $8 a pour is a small price to pay to be shipped back to the old country for a few moments. Save room for the pasta before too.

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino is a cute spot to grab lunch or dinner.
Giacomo's Cibo e Vino is a cute spot to grab lunch or dinner.
Photo by Kate McLean

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino is open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Houston Press is searching for perfect food pairings and where they can be found. We welcome reader suggestions and ask you to send them to dish@houstonpress.com.

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