Avignonesi is a Biodynamic estate in the Montepulciano region of Tuscany, Italy. Its main wines are Rosso di Montepulciano DOC, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC and Vin Santo di Montepulciano Occhio di Pernice DOC. Wines are also made under the Cortona DOC.
The Avignonesi name has been known here since at least the 16th century. The first wines were bottled here in the 1970s under Adriana Avignonesi (whose family traditionally had been doctors and pharmacists) and her husband, the agronomist Ettore Falvo (who had the land). Ettore and Adrianna’s daughter was Elena Falvo.
Owner: Virginie Saverys. In 2007 she bought a 30% minority stake from Ettore Falvo. Saverys was director of Belgian shipping company called Compagnie Maritime Belge. Alberto Falvo was due to continue as winemaker, but Saverys bought the remaining 10% owned by the Falvo family to take outright ownership of Avignonesi in 2009. This also came with Classica, an international wine, spirits and foods distribution company.
Biodynamics: Having acquired the estate Virginie Saverys went to France to learn about wine, and via Pierre Masson discovered Biodynamics. Via Masson, Saverys then met Dr Adriano Zago, who she hired as consultant. Staff who did not buy in to the new regime were let go.
Staff: General contact: Barbara Santilli. Vineyards: Alessio Gorini. Born in Pistoia (met him at the estate 22nd Oct 2015). Winemaking: Ashley Seymour and Matteo Giustiniani (From Florence. Studied oenology in Florence. In 2008 went to Bordeaux to study oenology under the late Denis Dubourdieu. I met him at the estate 22nd Oct 2015).
Vineyards–2009 The 110ha of vineyards were converted to biodynamics. | 2015 | At the estate 22nd Oct 2015 I was told there were 165ha of vineyards in production on an estate comprising 300ha of land in total (woods, olives, and cereal crops making up the rest). Sites were as follows: I Poggetti in Montepulciano proper. Le Capezzine, the actual estate with the ageing cellars west of Montepulciano. La Selva in Cortona. La Lombarda in Cortona. | 2017 180 hectares (445 acres) of planted vineyards plus fallow land destined to be re-planted with vineyards (Source: Virginie Saverys, 09 April 2018.)
Certification: 2009 Conversion to organic and biodynamic viticulture began. | 2016 First vintage with full organic certification for the entire estate. Also th first vintage with full Biodynamic (SIVCBD ‘Biodyvin’) certification.
Winery: ‘The Palazzo Avignonesi was built around 1550, but the cellars underneath date from the fifteenth century, and there are even remnants of an Etruscan tomb,’ (Rosemary George MW, Treading Grapes: 2004, p.177).
Winemaking: Under Virginie Saverys the wines have been fermented with native yeasts.
IGT Toscana Bianco, Control: 2017 12% Cool fermented, creamy at the Montepulciano Anteprima 2018.
IGT Toscana Bianco: 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay. Oxidised, oily, very poor at Argiano on Sat 19th March 2005.
IGT Toscana Bianco, Il Vignola: This Sauvignon Blanc white is sourced from the cru of La Selva–see also Il Marzocco (Nicholas Belfrage, 2001, p138).
Cortona Bianco DOC, Il Marzocco Chardonnay: The Chardonnay is sourced from the cru of La Selva (in Cortona, Loc. Centoia. N-E facing. Deep soils, clay, Pleistocene clay, dark clay, calcium carbonate)–see also Il Vignola (Nicholas Belfrage, 2001, p138). | 2001 Heavy oak, inelegant wood with some cork taint at Argiano on Sat 19th March 2005. | 2014 Steel, wild yeast. To oak. Lees stirring. MLF is when the bacteria decide. Only stays in barrel until January. Nice modern Chardonnay with oak and freshness, simple and not too fat at the estate on 22nd October 2015.
IGT Toscana Rosato, Cantaloro: 2017 12.5%. 100% Sangiovese. Cool fermented, estery (Anteprima 15th Feb 2018).
Cantaloro Rosso: 2012 Toscana Rosso 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese. 5 months in barrel. Bright, bit vegetal, OK, dryish end (Anteprima 2014). | 2014 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Sangiovese. Part barrel aged, rest in steel. Fof BDX grapes not good enough for Grifo or Desiderio. Like a second wine for Grifo or Desiderio.
Cortona DOC Rosso
Rosso di Montepulciano DOC, Avignonesi: 2012 Fluid, well made, lightish colour, not bad for this lightweight style (Anteprima 2014. | 2014 100,000 bottles. Sangiovese (mix of vines: cooler sites and younger vines). Botti grande for MLF and ageing for 8 months then bottled. Nice zip, light, sweet fruit and licorice dryness at end at the estate on 22nd October 2015. | 2015 13%. Youthful, earth (Anteprima 2017). Simple fruit, herbal (Anteprima 2018).
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Avignonesi: 2001 Smoky animal nose and odd style of baked fruit which makes this a really heavy, sloppy number (9th March 2005, at Argiano). | 2002 Bit dry and smoky with new French oak or the new fermentation vats at the consorzio on Tuesday 8th March 2005. | 2008 85% Prugnolo Gentile. 10% Canaiolo. 5%, Mammolo. | 2011 Fluid, bit dry at end (Anteprima 2014). | 2012 14%. 200,000 bottles. Aged in either in barrel, tonneau or botti depending on the vineyard. 18m. Last 6m as a blend in bottie grande. Decent punch to this, sour cherry and licorice, savoury, decent line, perhaps lacks a bit of clarity but refreshing. | 2013 Bought the vines in Lodola, Greppo and Matricchio (from Ruffino) = this is why the conversion took extra time. | 2014 400,000 bottles with new vines on board. Fluid, smooth, right amount of extract (Anteprima 2017). | 2015 13.5%. Bright, very attractive cranberry fruit, lighter-textured and very tidy (Anteprima 2018).
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Poggetto di Sopra: 2016 Debut vintage.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Grandi Annate: Only made in exceptional years. | 1997 13%. 85% Sangiovse, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. | 1999 Odd sweet cherry style, but their most elegant red as has some freshness and is not so heavy at Argiano on Wed 9th March 2005. | 2012 14.5%. 100% Sangiovese. From Argiano (I Poggetti) and Le Badelle (Cervognano/Argiano). Both Pliocene soils. Alkaline clay. pH 8.0. Salty soils, with too much sodium = low vigour (good for Sangiovese), small berries, high polyphenols. Took a while to open, nice sweet fruit and nice bitter black berries, plumskins at the estate on 22nd October 2015.
IGT Toscana Rosso, La Tonda: 2015 100% Sangiovese. 13.5%. Bright youthful minor key fruit, crisp, savoury at the Montepulciano Anteprima 2018.
IGT Toscana Rosso, Grandi Annate | From 2015 no longer labelled as a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. | 2015 Bright sweet fruit, soft tannins, fluid at the Anteprima 2018.
IGT Toscana Rosso, Grifi: 2012 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Sangiovese. 14.5%. Bit of old wood, Brettanomyces at the Montepulciano Anteprima 2018.
Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC, Avignonesi: 1998 14.5%.
Vin Santo di Montepulciano Occhio di Pernice DOC, Avignonesi: Said to be rare, great and so expensive it costs “la Lira di Dio” (Rosemary George, 2004, p.178). Ferments and ages in 50-litre barrels, which are filled with 43-litres of juice, 2 litres of madre, with 5 litres of head space. A piece of linen is put round the bung, and then it is sealed with wax and left for up to eight years. Rosemary George (2004, p.178) says that ‘to dunk your biscotti in it, as Tuscans usually do, would be sacrilege’. | 1998 15%.
Avignonesi, Montepulciano (SI = Siena), Italy