Friday, March 6, 2015


A select group of sommeliers, wine merchants and journalists were invited to a presentation yesterday at St. Vincent Tavern & Wine Merchant in San Francisco honoring “The Ladies of Vino Nobile,” Virginie Saverys, the new owner of Avignonesi, and her winemaker Ashleigh Seymour.

Belgian Virginie Saverys was an investor in this well-known Tuscan estate since 2007, but in 2009 she fully acquired it. In addition to expanding vineyard holdings from 225 acres to 495 acres, in 2011 she and her team began the transition to biodynamic farming. If and when they are certified by Demeter, they will have the largest biodynamic vineyard in Italy. In 2012 they built a new three-level winery, and have redesigned the wine labels as well.

A Renaissance hill town in the province of Siena in southeastern Tuscany near Cortona, Montepulciano is surrounded by vineyards which fall under the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, the highest level of Italian wine appellations (Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione aside – see separate article about that). Vino Nobile must use a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, and spend two years in oak before release (three for Riserva).

Sangiovese clones are a hot topic and the focus of Chianti 2000, a project by the local Consorzio there to improve quality in Chianti starting in the vineyards. Like Chianti, Vino Nobile may blend in other grapes, but the trend is towards making pure, 100% Sangioveses. In fact, this has been the case with Avignonesi since 2010.
 In addition, Saverys has begun replacing the commonly used Prugnolo Gentile clone, chosen for its ability to grow well in the clay-heavy soils of the area, but rather the variety of Sangioveto clones used in Chianti, an area with very rocky soils. “According to Saverys, the locals are abandoning Prugnolo Gentile altogether. “As a point of reference, Sangiovese Grosso, or  Brunello, the “little brown one,” is the preferred clone in the warmer, sunnier Montalcino.

Winemaker Ashleigh Seymour commented on the tarter nature of Vino Nobile as compared with other Tuscan Sangioveses. “We are at a lower elevation than Chianti. We are less rocky (rocks absorb sunlight and transfer heat to the vine roots as it cools down). So we are cooler.” In contrast, the vineyards of Montalcino, the richest expression of Tuscan Sangiovese, are already influenced by the warm sea and lavish sun in addition to mandatory oak aging, often new well-toasted oak.
The winery’s new flagship wine, Grandi Annate, replaces their Vino Nobile Riserva, and allows them to get the wine to the market at the same time as their regular Vino Nobile.

St. Vincent owner and Italian wine expert David Lynch and his team crafted a delicious
three course menu to showcase the Avignonesi wines.

Chicories parmesan, pistachios, saba, warm pork belly vinaigrette
2013 Avignonesi Rosso di Montelpulciano DOC

Spaetzle, wild mushrooms, kale with comte fonduta
2010, 2011, 2012 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

Bavette Steak, floriana polenta, sunchokes, spring onions
2011 Avignonesi Grandi Annati Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

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