Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano (375ml half-bottle) 1994
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In 1309 pope Clement V transferred the papal residence from Rome to Avignon, France. In 1377, when pope Gregory XI moved the papal residence back to Rome, some noble families of Avignon left France to follow him. It was at that time, in Italy, that one of those families became known as Avignonesi - probably to simplify an otherwise difficult, foreign name. Soon the Avignonesi family separated into three branches which settled in Rome, Siena and Montepulciano.
It is not known exactly when Avignonesi's cellars were built, but they are doubtless among the most ancient in Italy. Palazzo Avignonesi was built according to a design by Jacopo Barozzi (called Vignola) in the second half of the XVI century and it has always been the cellars' seat.
In 1974 the Falvo brothers, owners of the vineyards in the municipality of Cortona, took over Avignonesi and refounded it investing greatly in viniculture, selecting the local varieties and introducing classical ones such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir. Nowadays, Avignonesi consists of four wine-producing estates: Le Capezzine, I Poggetti, La Selva and La Lombarda. In total they comprise 218 hectares of open ground, 103 ha of vineyards and 7 ha of olive groves.
Based on the Sangiovese grape (here called Prognolo Gentile), the village’s prized wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ranks stylistically in between Chianti Classico, for its finesse, and Brunello di Montalcino for its power. With a deep ruby color, heavy concentration and a firm structure given by the village's heavy, cool clay soils, most Vino Nobile di Montepulciano will demand some bottle age.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.