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How many times must I proclaim my love for Sangiovese?
The grape is undoubtedly best in its home of Tuscany. There are many appellations that are dedicated to Sangiovese including the famous Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino. Sandwiched in between both of these is the DOCG of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or simply Vino Nobile for short.
Vino Nobile has a long history of being a great wine but its popularity has waned, especially with the rise of the neighboring DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino. Nonetheless, this is still a great area for Sangiovese. While the appellation rules of Vino Nobile allow for a small proportion of local grapes like Colorino and Canaiolo in addition to international grapes like Merlot, some producers stand by pure Sangiovese.
Avignonesi is one of those producers. They are one of the region’s stars and prefer to use only Sangiovese in their Vino Nobile bottlings. They farm their 175 hectares of vineyards biodynamically. Avignonesi claims that they are the largest biodynamic producer in Italy.
Owners Virginie Saverys and Max de Zarobe acquired the estate in 2009, when Virginie bought the majority of shares from the Falvo family. They are both dedicated to putting Vino Nobile back on the map. “In 2009, We went from consumers to producers overnight,” Max says. “We made wine that we wanted to drink regardless of the market.”
Avignonesi: Two Great Vintages
It’s been many years since I tasted the wines from Avigonesi, so I was excited to jump in. “Bear in mind all our Nobile are 100% Sangiovese,” Max said to me via email. “I’d be curious to hear how they compare to Brunello according to your experience.”
I tasted through the 2015s and 2016s, both great vintages in Tuscany. The latter fits my palate more. In 2016, it seems the wines have more harmony, brighter acidity, and the type of tannins that grip but don’t build too much. The 2015s are still delicious although I think 2016 will be the longer-lived vintage.
While I don’t find them to be exactly like Brunello di Montalcino, but that’s a good thing. Vino Nobile is a fantastic wine in its own right. They are great with food or on their own, are age-worthy, and can be had at friendlier prices than Brunello. Vino Nobile offers a taste of Tuscany without breaking the bank.
Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015
The Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 is 100% Sangiovese with true, lighter color. It is quintessential Sangiovese with notes of sour cherry, fall leaves, and cedar. A juicy, medium-bodied red with subtly firm tannins. Gets a slight uptick in score because this is the style I love. Score: 90+/100
Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016
The Avignonesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016 is 100% Sangiovese. Notes of cherry, raspberry, caramel, and a touch of mocha. While the nose leads me to think it’s a more modern take, the palate still brings me back to classic Tuscan wine. A medium-bodied red with plenty of acidity and chewy tannins. This will be more long-lived than the 2015 and is a very pretty wine. Score: 91/100
Avignonesi, ‘Poggetto di Sopra’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015
The Avignonesi, ‘Poggetto di Sopra’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 is a single-vineyard, 100% Sangiovese aged for 24 months in cask. This is a rich, structured red. There’s plenty of oak here at first but that dissipates with air. Notes of kirsch, sour cherry, leather, mahogany, and pepper. A bigger, more flavorful style of Sangiovese, it’s the most similar to Brunello in this set of wines. Score: 92/100
Avignonesi, ‘Poggetto di Sopra’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016
The Avignonesi, ‘Poggetto di Sopra’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016 is a single vineyard, 100% Sangiovese single-vineyard aged for 24 months in cask. This shows a lot less wood than the 2015. The fruit here is pure and is allowed to show through. There are notes of leather, sour cherry, cigar ash, and earth. This strikes a fantastic balance between classic and modern Sangiovese. The wine feels medium-bodied in the mouth at first before the big-time tannins hit at the end. It has a long life ahead of it. If you love Tuscan reds, this is a must buy. Score: 94+/100
Avignonesi, Grifi 2015
The Avingonesi, Grifi 2015 is half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Sangiovese. It’s Avignonesi’s Super Tuscan with notes of leather, sour cherry, red plum, and tobacco. This is a rich, chewy red that is undeniably Central ITalian. Plenty of concentration here with chewy tannins and a long finish. Brilliant effort and with braised meats this really shines. Score: 93/100
Avignonesi, Grifi 2016
The Avignonesi, Grifi 2016 is approximately half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Sangiovese. This dark Tuscan blend is smoky and savory. Notes of leather, black cherry, capsicum, and tobacco leaf show through on the nose. Full-bodied and plush on the palate, the savory nuances show over the fruit. If tasted blind, I might think this is pure Bordeaux on first smell and taste until the tangerine peel-like acidity comes through on the back end. Chewy tannins and a long finish. This is built to last in the cellar, put it away for another five to ten years. I like the 2015 a little more now but this vintage should prove to be the better wine in the end. Score: 93+/100
Avignonesi, ‘La Banditella’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015
This is 100% Sangiovese aged in big cask and barriques. This is a gorgeous Tuscan red with notes of sour cherry, pepper, tobacco, leather, cedar, and pepper. This is a round, complex, and explosive offering from Avignonesi. There’s loads of fruit here with plenty of earth and tobacco notes. The Sangiovese comes through here, there’s an impressive richness, almost Brunello-like body. Fantastic tannins and a long finish. Score: 94/100
Avignonesi, ‘Caprile’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015
This is 100% Sangiovese aged in large casks and barriques. This is a little more shy than the La Banditella. Notes of dried cherry, sour plum, tobacco, leather, and a touch of tangerine-peel. This is more savory on the nose but the palate explodes with plenty of bright fruit. There’s a nice spine of acidity running through the palate here. The tannins are refreshing here, they add some texture in the mouth but don’t dry out the palate. Long finish. Score: 93+/100
Avignonesi, ‘La Banditella’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016
This shows more freshness than the 2015. It’s 100% Sangiovese aged in both large casks and barriques. Notes of rose petal, sour cherry, mineral, cedar, and white pepper emerge from the glass. The fruit and the complexity come together nicely here. This is brilliant Sangiovese. The acidity and tannins here are close to perfect. Long finish. Score: 94+/100
Avignonesi, ‘Oceano’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016
This is 100% Sangiovese aged in large casks and barriques. Of all these single-vineyard wines, this has more stemminess and forest floor to it. There are also notes of red raspberry, white pepper, sandalwood, and leather. It has a lot of flavors similar to a red Burgundy, except the textbook tangerine peel-like acidity of Sangiovese comes through here. Rich texture and a long finish. I’d love to throw this is a blind tasting. Score: 94/100
Avignonesi, ‘El Grasso’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2016
This is 100% Sangiovese aged in large casks and barriques. It’s got the brightest, polished fruit out of all the wines. Notes of cherry, red raspberry, tobacco, red licorice, and black pepper. This wine is all about balance with a perfect harmony of fruit and earth. It’s a subtle Sangiovese that builds power as it goes down the palate. Perfect tannins and a long finish. Everything works here, the fruit, tanginess, and astringency. Just an absolutely gorgeous Tuscan red. Score: 94+/100
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Avignonesi provided tasting samples. The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.