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CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Tuscans are Super as Avignonesi presents Sangiovese royalty

Submitted by on Feb 24, 2017 – 5:00 pm
By Lawrence B. Johnson

To sample through the red wines of Italian producer Avignonesi is to understand how such vino di tavola – or table wine – came to be known as Super Tuscan. It’s also to be reminded of the rewards and adaptability of Sangiovese, the bedrock grape of Tuscany.

Or as Giuseppe Santarelli, Avignonesi’s export manager for North America, characterized Sangiovese in presiding at a Chicago tasting of his company’s wines: It is the King. Santarelli is one of those affable and plain-spoken people whose personal crowning of a grape you’re inclined to accept. He clinched his sovereignty over the tasting event with this observation: “A meal without wine is…breakfast.”

Here’s a glimpse of the Avignonesi wines that stirred the greatest buzz on this occasion:

Avignonesi Toscana Grifi 2011: A many-splendored blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Grifi offers a ringing instance of what’s so super about the Super Tuscans. The blend is just over half Sangiovese, the rest Cab. My personal choice as star of the evening, the 2011 Grifi is an imposing wine, complicated, dense and tannic – though the tannins are ripe and contribute to an already pleasurable mix. Still, of the four wines noted here, this is the one likely to pay the greatest dividends from a decade in the cellar. ($50) 

Avignonesi's vineyards roll across the hills of southern Tuscany. Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot 2012: The French have a term for it: qualité-prix. The ideal balance between what you get and the price you pay. The 2012 Desiderio, 85 percent Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon in support, is a genuine value at what these days is a modest price for wine of such merit. Round, smooth and palate-rich with plum, black cheery and smoke, the Desiderio also boasts the solid acid frame needed for mid-length cellaring. A lovely go-to glass worth buying in quantity. ($46)

Avignonesi Grandi Annate Riserva 2011: Located between Cortona to the east and Montepulciano to the south, Avigonesi lies in the deep south of Tuscany. This is the home ground of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, an indeed noble expression of Sangiovese that perhaps takes no more patrician form than Grandi Annate Riserva, which Santarelli noted is produced only in exceptional vintages. The 2011 is ruby red, plush and chocolatey. Though quite seductive now, it has the acid and tannin frame benefit from cellaring.  ($96)

Avignonesi Toscana 50 & 50 2010: This ample wine, soft but layered and complex, is a half and half collaboraton between Avignonesi, which provides the Merlot component, and another Tuscan producer, Capannelle, which supplies the equal portion of Sangiovese. A classic Super Tuscan, it’s also an instantly engaging beauty, deep red with husky, luscious body and generous flavors of red fruits and a touch of anise. It may be more for indulging than cellaring, but a little pampering is good for the soul. ($107)

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