Established in the mid-16th century, Avignonesi is one of the oldest wineries in Italy and its history parallels the history of the Catholic Church. When Pope Gregory XI moved the papal residence in 1377 from Avignon in Provence to Rome, the Avignonesi family followed him and settled in Montepulciano and founded the winery to supply the Pope with not only table wine but, possibly more importantly, the church’s communion wine – the Vin Santo.

After driving through the rolling Tuscan countryside we pulled up to the entrance of the Avignonesi winery, now owned by Virginie Saverys, a Belgium heiress and winemaker who studied in Bordeaux. We were greeted by Letizia who explained our schedule of a 1-hour tour followed by the four-course lunch and tasting.

Letizia escorted us out into their vineyard where she explained Avignonesi’s biodynamic viticulture process for nurturing the vines. While we had a great appreciation for the organic methods of cultivating the grapes it was the amphitheater-like landscape that created a feast for our eyes. Imagine 180 degrees of nothing but row upon row of green vines splashed with an early Summer sun. Stunning!

Following the vineyard tour Letizia walked us through the Vin Santo room where the Leonardo da Vinci designed drying racks held almost three stories of September harvested grapes that were in the process of evaporating into raisins thus allowing the desiccation process to concentrate the sugar level. After fermentation the wine would be placed into oak barrels for almost a decade where it would obtain its amber hue.

Following the tour of the production area we joined Letizia on the terrace overlooking the vineyards and the valley stretching into the far horizon. Letizia explained that the chef had designed the menu choices to showcase the wines that we would be tasting. Chef Carlo provided us with three choices for each of our courses and after studying the menu we made our selections and requested tasting plates for everyone. We wanted to sample every item on the menu with the wines. With the receipt of our order the kitchen sprang to life!

After 90-minutes of sublime flavors and sounds of satisfied dinning the desert course arrived with its two tastings. The 2007 vintage dessert wines had been aging for twelve years in their barrels – waiting for just this moment to express themselves. The Vin Santo di Montepulciano was pure caramel and hazelnut in the mouth and the cigar aficionados in our party said the Occhio di Pernice was like a fine cigar. 


Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.

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