A Bull named Desiderio


A Bull Named Desiderio

There is one label in the Avignonesi collection of wines, which above all the others sparks curiosity: Desiderio. The name in itself, meaning Desire, is strong and bold, and there is a big, white bull depicted on the label. But why? What does a white bull have to do with Avignonesi? What is the connection to the Merlot inside the bottle?

Well, it's an interesting story that originates more than a hundred years ago, at the end of the 19th century. But let’s go back a little bit further first, to fully understand how special this bull really was.

The bull pictured on the label is from the Chianina race of cattle. Named after the area in Tuscany from which it originates, Valdichiana, it is one of the oldest breeds of cattle in existence. Raised in Tuscany for at least 2,200 years, these gentle beasts were praised for their sweet temperament, resistance to heat, and for being some of the tallest and heaviest cattle in the world. Even today, mature bulls typically stand up to 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) in height and exceed 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) in weight. Because of these characteristics, they were commonly used in agriculture, for road transportation, and for their meat – in fact, the famous Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine steak) comes from Chianina meat. They were even praised by the Georgic poets, Columella and Virgil, and were models for many Roman sculptures, because of their size and striking white coats, as symbols of strength and virility.

One of the most desirable Chianina bulls through Tuscan history was Desiderio. Living at the Avignonesi estate Fattoria Le Capezzine towards the end of the 19th century, Desiderio stood above the rest – literally. At the time, he was the largest bull in Tuscany, weighing an impressive 16.73 quintals (1,673 kg/3,688 lbs). Instead of being used to plow fields, Desiderio lived up to his name and was used to sire the rest of the cattle in the region. As it is not cheap to have access to such impressive genes, from 1884 to 1889, Desiderio helped to bring wealth and prosperity to the small farm of Le Capezzine. Even though the farm has been converted from breeding cattle to wine producing many years ago, the memory of this majestic animal still brings honor to Le Capezzine today, thus the choice to name one of Avignonesi’s most emblematic wines after it.

It is no coincidence either that Avignonesi chose its Merlot to bear the name of Desiderio, as this variety develops a bold, at times opulent, yet warm and velvety character in the clay-rich soils of Cortona and Montepulciano.

A wine with strength, with sensuality and with character.

A wine not easily forgotten which symbolizes the bull-like stubbornness of Avignonesi in their continual pursuit of distinctive quality in all their wines.

Fun facts:

The first vintage of Desiderio was 1988.

The bull Desiderio is considered one of the main forefathers of the Chianina breed as we know it today. When you order a “Bistecca Fiorentina” of Chianina beef, it will without a doubt contain DNA  strands of Desiderio.

The “Chiana” valley, which gives name to the Chianina cattle race runs through the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG production area, cutting it in 2 parts: the bigger, southern–positioned part, east to the village of Montepulciano, and the smaller, northern-positioned part, where Le Capezzine farm is located.

During the first few vintages, the Desiderio label changed in color every year, introducing fun additions to the bull motif.

Another fun fact to mention here is that the first and the fourth of the labels below were designed by Belgian artist Thierry Renard (1951 - 2011), a dear friend of Virginie Saverys. He was commissioned to design the label by another friend, Carol van Wonterghem, who was a shareholder of Avignonesi then. It's a small world!

The vintages 1988  to 1996 were Vino da Tavola. In 1997, Desiderio Merlot became a Cortona DOC and with the current 2012 vintage it has changed to Toscana IGT, because Avignonesi today has Merlot vineyards both in Cortona and in Montepulciano.