The Griffon: Between Myth and Wine. Behind the Avignonesi Label


The Griffon: Between Myth and Wine. Behind the Avignonesi Label

The Griffon (in Italian, grifo, with the plural being grifi, pronounced gree-fee) is a creature of old, reborn time and time again in different cultures around the world, in different moments of history. Seen in Greek myths as the beasts that carries the chariot of the sun god Apollo,  during the Persian Empire as a protector from evil, or in more recent time the griffin also finds its place in Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book “Alice in Wonderland” and fans of author J. K Rowling’s popular series about Harry Potter will recognize the griffin from the name of  the house of the young apprentice wizard, the “Gryffindor”.

 Most often it is depicted as having the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, the griffin is a highly symbolic creature. As the lion is regarded as the king of beasts and the eagle is known as the king of birds, the griffin has through time become an expression of majesty, power and intelligence, and has as such often been used in its heraldic form on the coats of arms of townships and prominent families, to serve as an inspiration for their leaders to be equally strong, wise and just.

 In fact, both the towns of Montepulciano and Cortona depict a heraldic griffin in their coat of arms, and  in the central square of Montepulciano, in front of the impressive medieval dome, we find the well of the lions and the griffons, proudly overlooking the centre of the charming town centre.

(coat of arms to the left: Montepulciano, coat of arms in the centre: Cortona, photo to the right: well of the lions and griffins) 

 Also in Avignonesi the griffin holds a special position, as it adorns the wine label of the Grifi Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine holds many similarities to the mythical creature. Like the griffon beast is a combination of a lion and an eagle, the wine Grifi is a combination of two eminent varietals: 50% Sangiovese, undisputed king of Montepulciano, and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, king of Medoc, which is perfectly at home in the clay-rich soils of Cortona.  

For Avignonesi, our Grifi, too, was recently reborn.

We produced Grifi between 1983-1996, as a classic Super Tuscan: a wine that explored the innate capacity of the Sangiovese grape for welcoming other varieties into the blend. Although Grifi had quite a following, production was stopped in 1996, as the owners of Avignonesi wished to use all their Sangiovese grapes for the production of Vino Nobile. But like the famous Griffin, the legend of this wine continued to linger and previous customers kept asking and hoping for Avignonesi to bring it back. (photo to the left: the original Grifi label drawing)

Finally, new owner Virginie Saverys too the initiative to resuscitate this special wine:

“When I took over Avignonesi, I still had some older vintages of Grifi in my cellar. From time to time when we drank one of those bottles, I was always impressed with this wine. The blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, 2 late ripening grapes, one Italian, the other French, seemed like a perfect match. It was one of my very first dreams as a wine producer to craft this wine again. It wasn’t hard to convince my winemakers, either. Grifi was re-introduced with the 2010 vintage and it is now one of my favourite wines! What I also like about it is that it is a big challenge: being both late ripening grapes, it could be a double whammy in bad years.”
photo  to the right: Virginie Saverys)

So in 2010, thanks to recent acquisitions of new vineyards in the Montepulciano area, Avignonesi brought Grifi back, and better than ever with the Sangiovese sourced from old vines in Montepulciano (photo to the left) which produce a concentrated, elegant wine and the Cabernet Sauvignon coming from our best Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Cortona (photo to the right).


This wine is matured in French casks for 18 months and has an amazing ageing potential in the bottle. Just think about those old vintages from the eighties, which are perfect to drink now!

The label on the Grifi wine hasn’t changed much from the original one. It still portrays two griffins facing each other, but in the middle you now find the new logo of Avignonesi, symbolizing our position between the two historic towns of Montepulciano and Cortona and our place in the amazing history of this terroir. A history filled with beauty, valour and myth.