Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010

avignonesi-vino-nobileIf there’s a knock on Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the three big Tuscan DOCGs (the highest classification of Italian wines) alongside Brunello & Chianti Classico, it’s how the allowance of up to 30% non-Sangiovese grapes (technically Prugnolo Gentile, the local Sangio clone), especially when international grapes such as Cabernet and Merlot are used, hinders sense of place and consistency. Though just about every wine region has so-called modern and traditional versions of their wine, Vino Nobile seems to have generated more than the average amount of flak for this over the years.

As such, it’s interesting that Avignonesi, who has been producing these wines since around the time the DOCG was created, has committed to using 100% Sangiovese starting with the 2010 Vino Nobile vintage. This change comes as part of a newfound commitment to terroir led by new owner Virginie Sayerys (who had been a silent partner in the winery for a few years when she purchased it outright in 2009) that also includes converting completely to organic and biodynamic viticulture.

It would, however, be unfair to suggest that Avignonesi’s pre-2010 wines did not showcase a sense of place. I’ve always found them to nicely balance the typical Sangiovese fruit with savory notes of earth and herbs, and to feature excellent acidity. The winery has thus far refrained from using any international varieties in the DOCG wines, instead blending 85% Prugnolo Gentile with 15% Canaiolo and Mammolo, two indigenous grapes traditionally used in Vino Nobile, resulting in juice that’s firmly planted on Tuscan soil.

As such, drinking the 2010 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano alongside a cellared bottle of the 2007 did not show drastic differences, other than the obvious age gap. The former was bright, with dark cherries, and notes of leather and mushroom, especially as it opened. A bit on the tannic side, with firm acidity, these wines definitely have the stuffing to last a decade or more. (The 2007 showed more nuances of earth, tobacco and smoke.) In fact, I’d recommend this as a great candidate for a 6-pack, drinking one per year to see how it evolves.

At a price usually in the upper-20s, it’s a great alternative to the costlier Brunellos of nearby Montalcino, which of course are required by DOCG guidelines to be 100% Sangiovese.

2010 vintage available through PLCB SLO for $35.69, or from Saratoga Wine for $27.94.

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