Avignonesi owner Virginie Saverys is a leading light in the Italian wine scene.
Born in Belgium, she was a corporate attorney who decided her work was well…too corporate.
After years as a silent partner in the property, located in Montepulciano, Italy, she took it over 2009.
And while the winery, founded in 1974, has a rich past, she is only looking forward. She is putting out wines that are true to the land (“the terroir speaks, we listen”) and drinkable the minute you open the bottle. Even more progressive is the bottle’s back label — it tells you everything you want to know, from a straight-up tasting description to food pairing suggestions.
More importantly, she is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines, which are red wines, made predominately from Sangiovese grapes grown near Montepulciano (the town, not the grape) in Southern Tuscany. The wine is aged for two years, three years if it is a Reserve.
Though she faces steep competition in the Brunello di Montalcino wines. They also are made from the Sangiovese grape, but they are grown in Montalcino, about an hour west of Montepulciano. And they have gotten much acclaim recently, especially the 2010 vintage.
But her goal is to prove that the more value-driven Vino Nobiles can stand up to the those big-boy Brunellos.
In her free time she knits, grows vegetables and loves to dive. And her favorite wine pairing is a Rosso di Montepulciano chilled with spicy oriental food.
Read on for more.
1. “Terroir speaks; we listen.” Can you explain why that’s your motto and what it means?
A terroir has singularity, it has an identity. We at Avignonesi are in the service of our terroir. A vintage is a score composed by the soil, the climatic conditions and the plants, our job is to interpret it in the most harmonious way.
2. What is your typical day like as a vineyard owner?
A permanent awareness that work is by far the most rewarding added value.
3. What should people know about Vino Nobile?
Besides the fact that it was [one of President Thomas] Jefferson’s favorites and the most praised Tuscan wine during centuries, the Nobile has lost its luster after WWII to the Brunello’s benefit. This decline however is attributable to a general lack of self-confidence from the vast majority of the local vintners. However, a nucleus of producers has kept on the tradition and make fantastic wines. Unfortunately, they lack of critical mass to attract public interest and their marketing has been clearly insufficient. The Nobile, the true Nobile is worth rediscovering, and it is time to do it justice.
4. Can you talk about the detail on the back label? It’s so practical – what prompted you to do that?
Clearly inspired by Spanish tradition, more technical than story-telling. Needs perhaps to be improved on the high end bottles.
5. What’s next?
The Alliance between a few Nobile vintners is the next marketing move. We must show that we have an identity in spite of our differences; We ought to prove that the Nobile is a very good value for money when it comes from a serious producer.
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.