Avignonesi Cantaloro Rosato - Avignonesi is an old estate and an established wine brand in Italy, nestled in the hills of Montepulciano in Tuscany.
A successful Dutch lawyer, Virginie Saverys, realized her dream of changing careers and working in wine when she acquired the estate in 2009. A cancer survivor, Saverys is committed to holistic health and uses biodynamic and organic practices in the vineyards and cellar. Biodynamics is essentially holistic health applied to land -- creating a self-sustaining ecosystem of plants and animals without using pesticides and herbicides to control the land. Over the last decade, Avignonesi has grown to 175 hectares, making it the largest biodynamic winery in Italy. In an interview on grapecollective.com, agronomist Adriano Zago opens up about his work in biodynamic conversion at Avignonesi.
"From the beginning Avignonesi was a really conventional, traditional farm but when Virginie purchased the estate in 2009 she decided to change everything to biodynamics. She called me and said, “Can we?” I said, “I don’t know but we can try.” We eliminated all the poison from herbicides and insecticides. We started to take care with many new techniques to create new life and began growing other crops. The soil was pretty dead and we wanted to put new life into it by working with organic material."
Zago admits there was resistance among members of the old winemaking team. Avignonesi was an established, extremely successful winery, renowned for the style popular from the wild success of Super Tuscans in the 1980s--massive, fruit forward, excessively oaked wines, made with conventional farming and pesticides that were common practice. The old guard were suspicious of this determined, wealthy Dutch woman coming in and changing everything. Zago says, "they were thinking, 'Oh my gosh, now there’s a millionaire woman from Belgium who’s come in and she’s destroying everything we built in the past and she says that we are poisoning the land. Who is she to say that we are poisoning the place? We love this land.' ”
New team members, often young people accustomed to biodynamic farming, were brought on, but the original crew members who stayed on gradually came around when they saw the land bloom. Their first fully biodynamic vintage was 2012, and Zago says the style of wines has gradually shifted, and is noticeably different with the transition to biodynamics. The wines are more elegant and true to tradition, instead of thick and heavy, and the concern is not to make deeply concentrated, inky wines, but instead wines full of flavor from healthy, clean grapes. Though the wines are natural, they are clean and precise, not the rustic, barnyard-y style sometimes attributed to natural wines.
The Cantaloro Rosato is 100% Sangiovese, made in a delicate, lightly fruity style with notes of citrus and tropical fruit -- pink grapefruit, kiwi, and guava. Avignonesi's Cantaloro line is focused on freshness, making uncomplicated, fruit forward wine, aged in stainless steel. This wine does see some lees contact for complexity. Drink it with seafood like shrimp cocktail, seared scallops, or slow roasted salmon with citrus zest.
Avignonesi Dadi Sangiovese - This is an experimental project, ageing Sangiovese in amphorae, large clay jars like the kind that were used in the earliest records of winemaking in Mesopotamia. This vessel allows more breathability than oak, exposing the wine to microdoses of oxygen, in effect aerating the wine during the ageing process. This wine is a lovely supple Sangiovese, bright with red currant and cranberry fruit, tart and lighty tannic at the end, but more chewy than leathery. It would be a great Thanksgiving wine, if you can save it until then! The label art illustrates Avigonesi's biodynamic principles beautifully, and the name, "Da Di," is Chinese for earth and soil.
For more reading, here are some fun articles I drew from!
A Comparison of In-Amphorae Winemaking to Barrels/Barriques in Chardonnay Wine
VIRGINIE SAVERYS OF AVIGNONESI WINERY IS BRINGING NEW LIFE TO OLD VINEYARDS IN
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