Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005 at Italian Village, Chicago

With much of the team in town for meetings, we dined at our regular go-to place, Italian Village, Chicago. Many of our alternate sites are still closed due to the pandemic.

This winery is named after the Avignonesi family, founders of the original estate. It was acquired in 2009 by Virginie Saverys who before moving to Tuscany in 2007 to pursue her passion for fine wines, had a highly successful legal career in Belgium. 

She bought Avignonesi with the intention of taking on an established winery recognised for its quality, innovative research and experimentation and take it to a new level of excellence. Introducing sustainable farming methods and biodynamic viticulture, Avignonesi has become to the largest biodynamic winery in Italy. Saverys' aim for Avignonesi is to produce authentic, unique wines, that mirror the distinct identity of Montepulciano which are also healthier for her customers, land and future generations.

The estate has grown to 420 acres of vineyards including the purchase of a state-of-the-art winemaking facility in the Montepulciano appellation. 

Avignonesi is overseen by CEO and Winemaker Matteo Giustiniani. Florentine by birth, he studied oenology and viticulture at the University of Florence and later gained a Master in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux. 

Assisting Giustiniani is COO and Agronomist Alessio Gorini. Alessio joined Avignonesi in 2014. Born in Pistoia, Alessio has worked and studied in some of the most important wine areas in the world, including Bordeaux, Burgundy and New Zealand, where he developed understanding of biodynamic viticulture. He defines himself as a “foot-soldier of the vine”. 

At Avignonesi, they say, "the 'heavy lifting' is done in the vineyard with the close collaboration between the agronomist and the oenologist and their capacity to observe and act in the best interest of nature, fruit, staff and final consumer."

The Avignonesi brand now produces a broad portfolio of eighteen different labels. most produced primarily from Sangiovese, but also some Bordeaux varietal red wines, and some white wines and Blends comprised of Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Sangiovese and Grechetto. Their Cantaloro brand consists of every day wines in red, white and rose. They also produce a Grappa and a Grappa Reserve. 

The Tuscany wine region, or Toscana in Italian, is Italy’s best-known wine region and its most diverse. Historically Sangiovese was the primary grape grown in Tuscany and Chianti was considered the purest expression of Sangiovese. Sangiovese and its many clones are still important, and they are the grapes used for the Tuscan appellations of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti, Chianti Classico and Carmignano. 

Over the last 50 years, innovative producers, many of them in southwestern Tuscany in the area called Maremma, have also planted traditional Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Some producers have gone against tradition and blended those varietals with Sangiovese to produce respectable wines that do not conform to Italy’s appellation regulations. Such wines are called Super Tuscans.

I selected this label from the extraordinary, extensive Italian Village wine list and wine cellar. Wine Director and friend Jared Gelband was tied up, busy serving other patrons. When he later came to our table to check on us, seeing this bottle he exclaimed, 'I saw the order ticket for this label placed and suspected that was probably you!"

This label, Avignonesi Desiderio is comprised of Bordeaux varietals, primarily Merlot, sourced from the Cortona area of Tuscany.  

This wine gets its name from Desiderio, the name of a large bull that lived on Avignonesi’s Capezzine Farm more than one hundred years ago, and became something of a legend. At that time Desiderio was the largest bull in Tuscany and because of his excellent genes, helped refine and define the Chianina cattle race, specific to the region. 

This Merlot label is a tribute dedicated to the majestic beloved bull, a testimony of the wine’s origins, and as a symbol of its powerful, yet sensuous character.

This release is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The fruit for this label is sourced from the Cortona Central Coast estate vineyards, Le Badelle estate vineyard, planted in 2000, La Selva estate vineyard, planted between 1973 and 2004, Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia, La Selva estate: planted between 2003 and 2005; Ribuio, La Selva estate: planted in 2000, and Paggino, La Selva estate vineyards planted in 1973.

In recent years, 36000 bottles, 3000 cases were produced of this label. 

Recent releases of this label were awarded 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Veronelli and 91 points by Wine Spectator. This release was awarded 89 points by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

At going on seventeen years this was probably at the apex of its drinking window, not likely to improve with further aging. The fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect condition for their age.

Dark garnet purple colored, nicely balanced, smooth and polished, black berry fruits accented by smokey clove spice, licorice, tobacco, hints of dark chocolate and herbs with earthy Tuscan notes indicating Tuscan terroir, turning to dusty tannins with tangy acids on a long finish. 

RM 91 points