Avignonesi Vin Santo (half-bottle) 1987
Avignonesis Vin Santo is a great sweet wine and it should be sipped on its own, in small quantities but in large, wide glasses.
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.
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano coming in second.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, scattered with vineyards.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright and juicy red fruit, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity and ageability. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello expresses well the particularities of vintage variations and is thus popular among collectors. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, Carmignano and the island of Elba.
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.