modern wines from Historic tuscan estates
Italian Wine for june – under $20
Avignonesi, “Cantaloro” Toscana IGT 2013 (about $12)
The Avignonesi winery is located a short distance from the scenic town of Montepulciano on the road leading to Cortona. Avignonesi is one of the oldest wineries in Italy and is named after the noble family that was the original owner of the estate. Although an exact date for when the family built the winery can't be determined, it is generally regarded as one of the oldest in Italy.
Despite its long lineage of tradition and success, the estate’s real wine history begins in the 1970’s when the brothers Ettore, Leonardo and Antonio Falvo assumed control of the estate and with a seriousness of purpose dedicated themselves to upgrading the quality of the estate’s wines.
They began producing some serious, richly-flavored wines made with Sangiovese as well as some international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With their dedicated and earnest approach to winemaking they elevated the stature and reputation of Avignonesi wines as well as wines from the Montepulciano area in general.
In 2009, the estate was acquired by the Belgium-born Virginie Saverys who implemented a substantial makeover of the winery and its operations. She began acquiring additional vineyards in the Montepulciano-Cortona corridor area and upgraded the estate’s winemaking and cellaring facilities. Significantly, she also began applying organic and sustainable farming methods and then began implementing biodynamic principles to all of the estate’s 500 acres of vineyards. She expects Avignonese to be fully certified biodynamic within a few years.
While the primary focus of Avignonesi today as in past years is on the production of robust Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines the estate also produces some highly-regarded super-Tuscan wines. Avignonesi also produces some highly sought-after, award-winning Vin Santo wines.
Their wines generally rank in quality with the Brunello and Chianti Classico wines made in other close-by areas of Tuscany but generally offer better value.
The Cantaloro wine offered by Avignonesi is a case in point. It is a young, easy-to-drink, unpretentious red wine that is very drinkable in the best sense of the word.
It is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from a number of Avignonesi’s vineyards that are harvested at different times depending on each variety’s maturation schedule. The wines are fermented separately in steel tanks using only natural yeasts. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are then aged in previously-used small barrels (barriques) for 5 months while the Sangiovese is aged in large oak vats. Afterwards, the wines are blended and bottled where it rests for an additional 2 months prior to release.
This dry, medium-bodied wine has inviting aromas of ripe red fruit, attractive berry-fruit and subtle kitchen spice flavors and soft tannins that offer a straightforward, delicate and smooth mouthfeel. There is a touch of dryness with spice notes on the finish that adds a measure of finesse and elegance.
This delicious wine is easy to enjoy now or at any time in the near future with almost any food from salads and pasta dishes to roasted meats.
Don’t be turned off by the screw cap bottle. It is an inexpensive and thoroughly enjoyable wine that punches well above its weight. It’s hard to resist and you will find yourself coming back to it time and time again.
Mazzei, “Ser Lapo” Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (about $25)
Castello di Fonterutoli is located a short distance south of Castellina-in-Chianti in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in Tuscany. The Fonterutoli estate is a historic property with deep roots, so to speak, in the Chianti Classico region. The estate has been owned by the Mazzei family since 1435 and the Mazzei family has over the years been influential in the growth and development of Chianti Classico wines.
The Ser Lapo wine is a celebration of the Mazzei family’s illustrious history. It is named after their notable 14th century ancestor, Ser Lapo, who was the author of the first official document that uses the name “Chianti” to describe the local wines. A copy of part of the original document bearing his signature and seal adorns the top part of the bottle’s label.
Not one to rest on its laurels, the Fonterutoli estate has maintained consistently high standards over the centuries up to the present and today is one of Chianti’s - and Italy’s - most acclaimed wineries. The estate has grown over time through acquisition of additional vineyard properties in Chianti as well as some more recent acquisitions of prime vineyard properties in the Maremma region of western Tuscany and near the ancient town of Noto in southeastern Sicily.
A lot of care and attention goes into the production of all their wines and the Ser Lapo 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva is no exception. It is a blended wine made primarily of Sangiovese with a splash (10 percent) of Merlot. The Merlot is harvested in late August and the Sangiovese in mid-September. After maceration lasting 15 to 18 days the wine is aged for a year in a combination of new and used French Oak barriques. The wine is then bottled where it rests for an additional 4 months prior to release for sale.
It has complex and inviting aromas that are classic Chianti Classico with notes of cherries, plums and a touch of spice. It is medium-bodied with fresh acidity and rich, earthy currant and dark, ripe fruit flavors and a slight tannic rush. This is followed by a long, graceful finish tinged with a pleasant cherry-stone bitterness.
This wine is ready to drink now but will age well for 7 to 8 more years. Serve it with stews, Tuscan-style beef, game (particularly wild boar), lasagna, various salamis and aged cheeses.
At approximately $25, this is a distinctive, value-priced wine that comes with a Tuscan pedigree.
May 17, 2016
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