For those of you just joining us: I have a little bit of an Italian wine fetish. Let’s pretend we are on a super level critical playing field and I have no prejudice against, oh, say – France. Or Germany. Or Rutherford. I own it. I’m happy to be proven wrong – I adore being proven wrong – but I have a very strong inner “Paisan.”
The being proven wrong experience is nothing I am ever going to get from Avignonesi, though, even if that name references France. And the first thing I love about them is how good their wines are, but not far behind (and, I increasingly believe, directly connected to wine-goodness) is their light tread on the planet in the pursuit of Oeno-awesomeness.
Located in the southern hills of Tuscany near Cortona, Avignonesi makes a number of wines, including a beautiful Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, made from the region’s signature grape, Sangiovese. Merlots, Supertuscans, Chardonnay and even grappa are also made there. And all of them are 100% biodynamic with an emphasis on indigenous yeasts. These guys are big believers in letting the vineyard “imitate nature” (which really makes you think about why anyone would want their farmland to imitate anything else). The approach to farming and winemaking alike is consistently subtle, delicate, and easy on the ecosystem.
Their extra-yummy “Grandi Annate” VNM is especially worth mentioning – it’s well out of the Tuesday night price bracket (it can go for $90) but it’s such a stunning example of what can be done with the exact same grapes responsible for the straw-basket chianti that gave you that hangover you’ve never forgotten. The essential red fruit heart of the Sangiovese is readily apparent, but there are very interesting sub-tones in this wine – sandalwood, myrrh, tea, and roses. Oh, and it ages like a champ.
Meanwhile, they have plenty of wines that are closer to the $20 mark that are also completely wonderful. And they’re wines you can feel good about buying and good about putting in your mouth. High purity. No chemical inputs whatsoever. And winemakers (and growers) who have a very hands-on, up close and personal relationship with their fruit. It turns out, that’s an element you can also taste – genuine attentiveness and caring. And I’m pretty confident in predicting that paying attention to both the micro-picture and the Big Global One will be the make or break factor for everything we eat and drink. The planet’s heating up. Our soils are depleted, and mono-cropping (which is as standard for grapes as it is for soy or corn) is helping us to create food (and drink) with less and less nutritional value.
That might sound like a weird thing to invoke when you’re talking about wine, but it isn’t. Grapes are like anything else that comes out of the ground – what goes in and what comes out are related and quality makes every difference, both to our health and to our senses. And by the way, those are also connected. Everything is, as it turns out.
You’re not going to single-handedly reverse climate change by buying a different bottle of wine. But you can opt not to participate in speeding it up. So I say support the folks who care for the dirt they walk on. It correlates closely with how much “delicious” you get when the cork is pulled.