Sassicaia 2019 New Vintage Release Tasting In London…

I have commented before that it’s pure genius that Tenuta San Guido release their new Sassicaia vintage every year along side the next years Guidalberto and Le Difese red blends, enabling tasters to indulge in a unique snapshot of what is in the pipeline for the next Sassicaia release. It builds a full year of excitement and anticipation in the wine trade which counts as priceless promotion in marketing terms!

Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta was due to fly into London recently to present the new 2019 Sassicaia release but was sadly confined to her home office after one of her children tested positive for covid after returning from a family ski break. So, we hooked up by zoom instead and shared Tenuta San Guido’s wonderful new releases together virtually.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2020, 14% Abv.

A rather challenging, warm vintage especially in the summer that was mitigated by good rains in 2019 and some 2020 Spring showers. With a broad array of vineyards to select fruit from and a percentage of earlier ripening Sangiovese, the blend was assembled to 55% Sangiovese and 45% for the Cabernet Sauvignon, departing from the usual split of 70-30 Cabernet-Sangiovese.

Bight and richly fruited, there are ample layers of black currant, earthy tobacco spice, sweet black plum and bruleed brown toast notes. But the palate is vibrant and electric, full of energy and fresh acids that bring the black and red berry fruits to life while also adding frame and structure in the mouth. The tannins are wonderfully sleek, fine grained and elegant with a subtle minerality and hints of graphite. A deliciously fresh and refined expression of this earlier drinking cuvée.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2020, 14% Abv.

Slightly higher Merlot component rising from 40% to 50%, with the remainder all Cabernet Sauvignon, sticking with the theme of a higher percentage of the earlier ripening variety than normal. 

Deep and darkly coloured, the aromatics are rich and fruity with opulent savoury aromatic layers of bruleed black currant, creme caramel, cut cedar, sweet tobacco and an exotic dusting of youthful cinnamon spice. The palate is fleshy and opulent with a pronounced sweet and sour tangy acidity, a full sleek mid-palate weight and a long, plumy tobacco spice finish. Harmonious, finely balance and offering a great expectation of drinking pleasure for the next 10 to 15 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2019, 14% Abv. 

The 2019 is a very classic vintage that follows a perfect pattern through all phases of the season. Grapes were healthy and perfectly mature allowing a long hang time for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon due marked diurnal temperature shifts and a relaxed, gently paced picking window. Great structure, low pHs and a fresh acidity all point to a long ageing potential.

Deep, dark, broody aromatics that are tight and reserved currently, with a traditional blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. The aromatics show layers of violets, damson plum, black currant, blood orange, sweet cedar, grilled herbs, oak spice and black currant infused herbal tea nuances. On the palate the density is clear and present, full, opulent and concentrated, gliding over the tongue with great textural weight but also fleshy fruit power, seamless fine grained creamy tannins and all round finesse and majestic balance. Pure class… profound on so many levels and perhaps, along with the 2016 vintage, one of the most attractive Sassicaia releases in the past 20+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Returning to Authenticity – Tasting the New Era of Biodynamic Wines from Avignonesi…

Unravelling the conundrum that is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has been a long term goal of mine. As someone who lives and breathes Italian wines, I have never quite understood the true appeal of Sangiovese wines from Vino Nobile primarily because so much rustic fare has been produced over the years, wines with hard angular tannins, tart acidity and thin fruit.

Exit stage door left, enter Max de Zarobe and Virginie Saverys, the philanthropic-styled current owners of Avignonesi. It’s been a long time since I’ve met such candid, honest talking winery owners such as Max and Virginie, which is thoroughly refreshing in a wine world filled with plenty of smoke and mirrors.

Tasting with winemaker Matteo Giustianini and owner Virginie.

After two days of multiple vineyard visits, winery exploration and wine tastings, it quickly became apparent the amount of passion, knowhow (and money), Max and Virginie have committed to their Avignonesi winery project which they took full ownership of in 2009.

Rejuvenated 42 year old Sangiovese vines in the Avignonesi vineyards.

As successful ship owners in Antwerp, Max and Virginie are quick to point out that turning Avignonesi around from a volume orientated commercial beast into one of Europe’s largest quality focused, organic, biodynamic wineries has been akin to turning a super tanker around, a seemingly ‘simple’ task that takes an astonishing half a day… and perhaps a decade for the winery.

Tasting through the full range of wines from Avignonesi, located near Montepulciano in southern Tuscany, it becomes clear some very impressive wines have been produced in a region that has struggled to replicate the success of Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and more latterly, the Maremma.

Winemaker Matteo Giustianini and viticulturalist Alesio Gorini expertly oversee the 179 hectares of vines, planted over 9 sites, with 102 hectares of Sangiovese and some historic Merlot planted on what are effectively very recent, young geological soils. The results are indeed positive and confirm the region’s innate ability to produce truly great red wines once the right amount of application, investment and attention to detail are applied.

Avignonesi Ventisei Rosso 2017, IGT Toscana Rosso Organic, 13 Abv.

Bright and lifted, the aromatics are lush and fruity, brimming with strawberry confit, strawberry pips, sappy red bramble berries and plum sauce. The palate is equally rich and expressive with an overt illusion of sweetness, layered with strawberry coulis, red cherry and sweet red plums. Full bodied, mouth-filling but deliciously fresh and thoroughly unpretentious.

(Wine Safari Score: 88+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Ventisei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2015, 14 Abv.

A blend of 90% Sangiovese plumped out with 10% Merlot, the nose shows complex hits of botanical herbs, black berries and pithy black cherry with a subtle hint of cinnamon and oak spice. The palate is very elegant, sleek and polished, revealing layers of black currant, mulberry confit, balsamic and sweet, pithy, vanilla pod spice. Fine balanced with lovely approachability and very sleek, tamed tannins.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Cantaloro IGT Toscana 2015, 13.5 Abv.

A blend of 38.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 25.5% Sangiovese. The aromatics are bright and exotic with notes of sour plum, red cherry, mango skins and blood oranges. There is a lovely texture and elegance, sleek fine creamy tannins with hints of black cherry, baking herbs, vanilla pod spice and a long, cool, menthol tinged black currant finish. Seamless, cool, classy blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014, 13.5 Abv.

100% Sangiovese from a more challenging vintage, the 2014 shows lush opulent notes of freshly cut hedge row, bramble berries, violets, forest floor, truffle oil and strawberries drizzled with balsamic reduction. There is plenty of ripe savoury fruit on the palate which shows a gentle touch of extraction, a fleshy soft red berry core and a long, red cherry and pink rock candy finish. Delicious approachability and drinkability already.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015, 14Abv.

100% Sangiovese, this nose is jam packed full of perfume, fruit and opulence. This great vintage delivers ripe lifted notes of sweet strawberry, red berry, red plum and pithy, resinous sappy notes. Deliciously exotic on the palate, the tannins are sweet and ripe, powdery and silky soft, melting into the sweet red cherry and strawberry fruit melange. The finish is more structured, revealing power and intensity with an impressively long length. Big impressive vintage for sure.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Grandi Annate 2013, 14 Abv.

Only produced in the best years, this 2013 is a deliciously crafted wine with a complex, more tertiary nose of bramble berry fruits, botanical herbs, summer flowers, sweet red cherries and subtle rosemary and nutmeg hints. Palate is sleek and deep, earthy and savoury with delicious wood spice and cinnamon notes, graphite minerality and soft polished tannins on a classy, noble, classical finish. Fine poise and power. A wine not to be underestimated.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Grifi 2012, IGT Toscana, 14.5 Abv.

Made from Sangiovese sourced from old vines in Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon from Cortona, the 2012 was a hot, dry vintage and is evidenced in the glass with a deep, dark colour and an overtly opulent nose of sweet black cherry confit, cherry liquor, black plums, vanilla pod spice and roasted herbs. The palate shows power and depth, savoury black plum fruit, tannery leather, tobacco, chalky tannins and an opulent, earthy, foresty finish. An expressive, powerful wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Avignonesi Merlot Desiderio 2015, IGT Toscana Organic, 14.5 Abv.

Made from 100% Merlot sourced mostly from a vineyard near Cortona and a vineyard near Montepulciano called Le Badelle. There is a more international aromatic profile to this wine, with a lifted, opulent nose of black plum, sweet cherry kirsch liquor, grilled herbs, hoisin sauce and vanilla pod spice. The palate is generous and ripe, sweetly fruited and plushly textured with hints of black currant pastille, black cherry and blueberry crumble. Well proportioned, finely polished graphite tannins and a long, dense finish with a tantalising saline kiss of liquorice. Modern and intense, but beautiful execution.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

50/50 2013 IGT Toscana, 13.5 Abv

This 50% / 50% Blend of Sangiovese from Gaiole in Chianti and Merlot was first produced in 1988 in a joint venture between Avignonesi and Capannelle in Chianti Classico. The Merlot is produced by Avignonesi from the Lodola estate located in Valiano and shows a richly embroidered aromatic display of sweet black cherry, black plums, kirsch liquor, blueberry muffins and sweet mint sauce. The palate is bold and fleshy but also very supple, finely balanced and elegant with the Sangiovese sap and spice marrying harmoniously with the overt, blueberry and vanilla pod creaminess of the Merlot. A big, bold, adventurous red expression, this wine delivers pleasure on so many levels, always remaining fresh, elegantly balanced and finely poised, making it eminently drinkable now or cellar-worthy for 10 to 15 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The amazing Vin Santo storage building, where wines are aged for up to 10 years in small oak barrels.