Avignonesi has been a winery on our radar screen for a long time.  While we have mostly focused on their Vino Nobile, we recently came across a few curious bottles at one of our local wine stores:  Grifi Toscana IGT (a blend of cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese) and  Desiderio (85% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon).
The grapes come from one of the newer Italian appellations called Cortona.  Cortona DOC wines must contain a minimum of 85 percent of any one of several approved grape varieties: Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir for reds, and Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. The other 15 percent can be a blend of any approved grapes, though the wines can be made entirely from a single grape variety.  This area in the southeastern corner of Tuscany (also encompassing a northwestern corner of Umbria) has an unusual micro-climate which always the grapes to ripen which giving enough cool breezes to avoid jammy fruit bombs.
We opened a bottle of the 2006 Desiderio, and we were surprised by the power.  Wine Spectators notes:  “Aromas of blackberry, with hints of black olive. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a smoky berry aftertaste. Surprisingly forward.”  That about nails it.
The wine is aged for 24 months in new French barriques, and sits in the bottle for 6 more months before release.  It is certain an cellar-worthy wine which should last at least 10 years past its release.
From our tasting notes:  The wine is inky, very dark purple, which reminded one taster of Syrah.  The aroma is nothing like French, or even California merlot-based wines: aromatically explosive with lots of blueberry and loganberry, along with notes of vanilla, cedar, tobacco, cassis and chocolate. Completely full bodied and luscious, tremendous mouth feel, supple, silky tannins, fruity all the way down with a super long satisfying finish.  Think about matching this wine with steak, game meat, or a hearty vegetable stew.

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