Best of the Best 2007: Dessert Wines: Avignonesi 1994 Vin Santo di Toscana Occhio di Pernice
Avignonesi 1994 Vin Santo di Toscana Occhio di Pernice
This Avignonesi estate in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano derives its name from a family of French emigrants who followed Pope Gregory XI back to Italy when he left Avignon for Rome in the late 14th century, taking his retinue with him and officially ending the Avignon papacy.
Ettore Falvo assumed control of the estate in 1974, when he married into the Avignonesi family. Since then, Falvo and his brother, Alberto, have invested heavily in modernizing the property. Their efforts have included replanting with superior clones and establishing an experimental circular vineyard, known as Vigna Tonda, with which they test for optimal planting densities. But Avignonesi’s Vin Santo (Italian for “sacred wine,” a reference to its original use at Catholic Masses) is the product of viticulture methods that preserve the labor- and time-intensive, artisanal nature of the wine.
In addition to making a version of Vin Santo from white grapes, Avignonesi also produces this darker Occhio di Pernice (“eye of the partridge”) using the Prugnolo Gentile variety, a clone of Sangiovese that has been cultivated in Montepulciano since the 18th century. After harvest, the grapes are dried for as long as six months on wooden racks to concentrate their sugars. Aged for 10 years in the vinsantaia—the dedicated Vin Santo cellar—in 13-gallon barrels that are sealed with wax and never topped off, the wine develops its characteristic rancio and complexity. The 1994 Occhio di Pernice has bright prune and dried apricot flavors with luscious sweetness, racy acidity, and incredible length. Thick, viscous, and silky, with amazing depth and intensity, this wine is unforgettable.