On the Road with the Grape Guy

Avignonesi Tasting (in Italy)

16 May 2020

(February 2020) ... The winery was established in 1974 and is a proud supporter of the Montepulciano region and a staunch believer in its uniqueness … they are also great ambassadors for Italy’s first, and oldest, DOCG – before they even start to talk about Avignonesi, first they start at the beginning, the region itself.

The Region: Montepulciano …

Montepulciano is just 1200 hectares; the vineyards lie between 210 and 500 meters above sea level with the average being about 300m. There is a move afoot to call the wines “Nobile” to avoid the confusion with the Montepulciano grape (which is Italy’s second most widely planted red grape, next to Sangiovese).

The Winery Make Up … Avignonessi Sign

At Avignonesi they grow mainly Sangiovese (80%) along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo … and while Canaiolo is disease prone and tough to keep in the vineyard what it adds to the wine (soft tannins / deep colour) is worth keeping it around … it is similar to Merlot but it brings with it a sense of place and Italian origins.

Their production is about 600,000 bottles: 400,00 of Vino Nobile and 200,00 IGT wines. The property is 300 hectares in total … made up of 15 hectares of grain/corn and woods; 175 hectares of grapes, spread out between Nobile (100 hec) and Cortona (75 hec) plus 200 olive trees.

In 2015 Avignonesi started a single vineyard project with 5 different vineyards making 100% Sangiovese wines, 4000 bottles of each wine and comparing them to each vineyard … a true terroir driven experiment:

The Vineyard Project – vineyard characteristics …

Sopra – 40-year-old vines, clay-limestone and sandy soils, 380m above sea level, located in the Poggetti area.
Oceano – 20-year-old vines, 380m above sea level, high density planting, different vine shapes with less bunches per vine, clay-limestone-sandy soils, also in the Pogetti area.
La Stella – 20 years old vines, high density plantings, 250m above sea level, mainly clay and sandy soils, but also has an element of saltiness.
La Banditella – north facing southern vineyard with mainly clay soils and vigorous vines, 300m above sea level, and average vine age of about 25 years old.
La Badella – most southerly vineyard of Montepulciano, 15-year-old vines located at 300m above sea level and clay dominated soils.

The Project Wines Tasted (samples from the 2017 vintage) …

Sopra … ripe fruit with good acidity and structure, there is quite a bit of power on the palate in the form of tannins and fruit.
Oceano … delicate red fruits, soft and supple with an easy drinkability, delicate tannin structure, good acidity and a chalky-mineral note to the finish.
La Stella … a saline-like note is the backbone of this wine, there’s also a softness here, almost to the point of thinness, but there is some nice red fruit character that pulls the wine back from the abyss of being watery.
La Baditella … red fruit dominates, supple and elegant with nice acidity and good balance of fruit – very quaffable.
La Badella … hard tannins, ballsy dark fruit notes with a rawness and harshness that screams of cedar and high acidity clashing.

Cloud the DogFinished Wines …

2016 Nobile
100% Sangiovese, 24 months in barrel / 6 months in bottle. Big tannins and acidity with floral, red currants, subtle cherry and gentle oak nuances.  (*** ½+)

2015 Nobile “Poggetto di Sopra”
Fruit taken from 40 year old vines; aged 24 months in big barrels and tonneau – then 6 months in bottle before release: slight VA note, rich and robust and fairly harsh; needs time to round out.  (*** ½)

2016 Nobile “Poggetto di Sopra”
See above for age of vines and barrel aging: elegant and fruit driven with good acidity, smoky nature with good tannin structure – hints of anise, herbal and spice help to round this wine out … a true delight.  (****+)



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