COLUMN WRITTEN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE
For Digital First Media
When I first jumped head first into the wine world in these United States, it was, as many of you know, in a town called Lawnside, N.J., where my late father-in-law, Victor Gerber, reigned supreme in his wine and spirits and beer and cigarettes emporium otherwise known as a liquor store. I worked from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. 6 days a week piling up cases of Budweiser and Miller and Gallo Pink Chablis 3 liters in the warehouse and then spending endless hours loading the floor to ceiling wall of skids with about 100 beer selections in 6 packs and cases. I was 24 and so it was terrific training (both physical and educational) working all those hours and devoting my time to all manner of alcoholic beverages. Occasionally learning some nuggets of useful information about the brands along the way. One of the most successful lines of wine were also the most fragile. They were the long-necked, fat-bottomed wicker encased wines from Chianti – the wicker is known as a fiasco, coincidentally the same name I use to describe a certain alcoholic state monopoly in an East Coast location in this country.
It took a few years until I realized that the grapes used to produce Chianti were Sangiovese. And, in later years, that single grape variety would become a megastar in its own right as wineries around the world would start producing wines from that grape and calling them by it’s own name.
Sangiovese, like most grapes, produces an instantly recognizable bouquet and taste in Tuscany, Italy where Chianti is made, but in other parts of the globe it can be directed by the wine maker to offer up many other characteristics which might not be as familiar on first sniff and quaff.
But the Old World isn’t as stodgy as it was back in my early days in the wine world, and Italian producer, Avignonesi, has spearheaded a new age of Sangiovese wines. I recently tasted three Sangiovese-dominant wines. And they proved one point very clearly to me. The New World can still learn plenty from the Old World, because the Old World has some brilliant young talent now making the wines, especially at Avignonesi.
The Avignonesi family’s winery was acquired in 2009 by retired Belgian lawyer Virginie Saverys who has since introduced organic and biodynamic farming methods to the winery, located in the Montepulciano appellation of Italy. Like so many modern wineries the winemaking team maintain the individual characteristics of each vineyard producing their grapes and also keep the grapes natural flavors intact.
2011 Grifi Toscana IGT (approximately $60): Harvested from several vineyards, the Grifi is a blend of 50 percent Sangiovese and 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Each grape variety is confident enough to stand up to it’s partner and neither overwhelms the other. Fabulous red berry fruit flavors with some herbal notes and surprisingly soft and quaffable. Yes it will marry with winter stews and heavy meat dishes superbly but don’t dismiss enjoying on its own in front of a crackling fire. This is a big, bold warrior of a wine and despite its high price tag, it is the equivalent of a bespoke suit, tastefully tailored and beautifully designed.
2012 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (approximately $29): Harvested from the winery’s 8 vineyards, this 100 percent Sangiovese has tons of fruit flavor with ample character from the long aging in wood barrels. It is possibly the best Sangiovese on the market given its pedigree, the winemaker’s attention to detail and it’s stunningly delicious flavor for under $30.
2013 Rosso di Montepulciano DOC (approximately $19): The winery presents this wine as its “entry level” Sangiovese. I tend to disagree unless one thinks of a BMW MINI Roadster as an “entry level” car. Methinks not. But for less than 20 bucks I would say the pricing is most definitely akin to a VW (may it rest in peace). This wine has a total cherry presence in its sumptuous flavor, it is soft and relatively light and I am quite happy chucking it in the fridge for 10 minutes. Ninety-four percent of this wine comes from Sangiovese and to my mind it is fully entitled to take a lap of honor.
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears regularly in this publication. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly podcast heard on TuneIn Radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4 “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining