Situated southeast of Florence and Siena, the hilltop town of Montepulciano has a long and storied history with wine. Recent findings confirm that a settlement was in existence as far back as the 3rd century BCE, while an old legend attributes the founding of the town to an Etruscan king. While the Etruscans were known to produce wine in the area, formal documentation dates the start of wine production in the year 789.
Although perhaps less well known than its neighbor Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has developed a strong reputation for its wines beginning in the 17th century. In 1685, the poet Francesco Redi wrote, “Montepulciano of every wine is king.” In the late 18th century, the wine was given its “noble” title when described by G.F. Neri and was written about by Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas and Thomas Jefferson. More recently, the Italian pop band Elio e le Storie Tese sang, “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a great syrup for the throat for a singer like me…” Given its illustrious history, it should come as no surprise that the wine was among the first to receive DOCG status in 1980.
Like Chianti Classico, the wine is generally a Sangiovese-based blend, which is referred to locally as Prugnolo gentile and can encompass 70 to 100% of the wine. The remainder is made up of other red varieties including Colorino, Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. In addition to the specified grape varieties, the regular wines must be aged for a minimum of two years prior to release with at least one year in wood. Similarly, the Riserva wines must complete a total of three years of aging. While some producers do still use old oak casks, the trend has been toward new oak barrels.
Aside from its winemaking heritage, Montepulciano has been a well-regarded Tuscan town. It served as a strategic position during medieval times and was an ally and possession of Florence. sported a golden age during the mid-16th century when many great architects worked and lived in Montepulciano as the Piazza Grande in the city’s center can attest.
Even earlier, the area became a religious center after the fall of Rome. However, when the papal residence was transferred from Avignon back to Rome, some of the noble families followed the Pope and became known as Avignonesi. The Avignonesi family eventually split into three branches, settling in Rome, Siena and Montepulciano.
It was in Montepulciano that Palazzo Avignonesi was built in the 17th century, home not only to the palace, but also to the cellars. The winery was established as a commercial venture in 1974 by the Falvo brothers, who invested in the property and created some of the wines that are still produced today. In 2009, Avignonesi was purchased by ex-Belgium lawyer, Virginie Saverys. With a devotion to terroir and homepathic medicine, Virginie kept the original founder’s name, but has transformed the estate to organic and biodynamic farming methods.
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepluciano 2012
Aromas of cherry, earth, wet leaves and a hint of oak greet the nose. On the palate, the medium-to-full bodied wine displays lush cherry fruit with olive, earth and oak notes, culminating in long length.