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Donatella Cinelli Colombini interviews the wine maker Valerie Lavigne

For Valerie Lavigne wine maker of Donatella Cinelli Colombini the autochtonous grape varieties will be the protagonists of the future italian wine

 What do the words DIVERSITY, IDENTITY, TIPICALITY? In an era of globalization these seem to have become more important but can they merge with the research for high quality?

Valerie Lavigne wine maker

Valerie Lavigne wine maker

1) Donatella Cinelli Colombini


Valerie Lavigne Identity and typicality define the personality of the wine. It is through them that wine is recognizable by its taste, taste that is the specific expression of one or more grape varieties grown in a given region. Without authenticity, there can be no diversity. Therefore the search for quality in my opinion is inextricably linked from the notions of authenticity, identity and therefore diversity.


Barbara Magnani, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Valerie Lavigne

Barbara Magnani, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Valerie Lavigne


2) Donatella Cinelli Colombin autochthonous varieties like Sangiovese, Foglia Tonda and Sagrantino. What have they to offer more or less of compared to the international varieties like Cabernet or Merlot


VLV Autochtonous grape varieties, when combined with the image of a great wine produced in this region, Brunello Sangiovese for example, are always cultivated at their northern limit, ie where there is always a little more difficult than elsewhere to get a full maturity. It is in these conditions that the grape expression is the most original and most inimitable either.
The international varieties like merlot, cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, when grown in Bordeaux and Burgundy are at their northern limit. The aromas of these varieties, in these circumstances are very unique and identifiable. Grown in warmer or drier climates wines produced can be good but not very great wines. Their aromatic expression loses its unique character. It is the privilege of autochtonous grape varieties to generate wines whose flavor can’t be replicated.

3) DCC The choice of preferring barrels for Brunello is firstly for wine making reasons and then for cultural reasons? In other words does it show a desire to make a wine with more identity or only to make a better wine?

VLV As I said, the wines are recognizable by a particular expression, typical of one or more grape varieties grown in a given region. The wood must not disturb this authenticity, it must remain a support, an element of complexity.
Less wood for wine most authentic and therefore greatest wines

4) DCC All of us must collaborate to reduce the environmental impact. What is the future of the eco-compatible vineyard? Many think of going biological others of being biodynamic…..how does one make great wines and still preserve nature?

VLV There is no choice. The vineyard must be both eco-compatible and produce great wines, expressing local inimitable taste.
The objectives of eco-compatibility are varied: no residues of pesticides not only in wines but also in soil, water and air, unspoilt and adorned countryside, enriched territory both economically, socially and culturally.
The distinction between biological and biodynamic is purely semantic. We must make every effort to achieve environmental objectives; If certain practices of biodynamic have a measurable beneficial effect, they are justified. Otherwise they have no interest.

5) DCC Today the Supertuscans, based on Sangiovese and international varieties, are no longer fashionable. Is this the beginning of an era that sees favourably blends based on autochthonous varieties? What do you think about Sagrantino plus Sangiovese?

VLV I think a return to blend of autochtonous varieties is in the air of time, always with the same idea, produce wines typical of a place, with a recognizable and inimitable taste.
Why not imagine the effect of combining the colorful, powerful, low acid and very tannic Sagrantino with the more delicate, most acidic and less colorful Sangiovese? It is the tannin quality of each that will guide the blend. But there are probably other ways to explore or deepen in all cases. What about Colorino for example?

No more barriques, Brunello goes back into barrels

“Sangiovese’s specificity to be exalted and a return to the use of barrels”, these are the indications given by the French wine maker Valérie Lavigne for the perfect harmony of the greatest Brunello.
This type of affirmation is one that gets people talking, mostly because it comes from a French person and the barriques which have populated Italian wineries for the past ten years are French too. It is Valérie Lavigne speaking, the new extraordinary wine maker in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s Tuscan wineries.
She teaches winemaking in the most famous wine making university in the world, Bordeaux, she is consultant together with Denis Dubordieu and Christophe Olivier, in some of the most important wineries in the world such as the Châteaux d’Yquem, Margaux and Cheval Blanc.
“The more a wine is concentrated and rich in phenolic components the better its resistance in small wooden casks. But even if a wine can resist an excess of wood it does not mean that it is right to impose such an ageing on it”. From this starting point Valérie develops her philosophy for the great red wines from Montalcino. “Brunello must age in barrel at least two years. For such a long ageing process the maker must choose a container which permits it to benefit from the advantages associated with the use of wood (oxygenation, clarification, bringing aroma and taste) and at the same time maintain the personality of the wine (fruit, freshness and balance). The wood must not dominate the wine, it must remain an aid, an “épice”. Here is her opinion “This result is obtained best using barrels”.
The French wine maker intends privileging perfect harmony in the Brunello; this is a distinctive trait in great wines. To obtain this harmony she proposes some golden rules: if a wine must change container during its ageing in wood it is preferable to start with smaller ones and then continue with the lager sizes. The necessity for oxygen in fact decreases with time. But once again she insists on tonneuax (5 hl) and barrels which “permit more than barriques (especially if old) the preservation of the aromas of the Sangiovese from Tuscany and avoiding that the dryness of tannins disturb the balance of the wine”. This refers to the slightly bitter finish which Ms. Lavigne calls “dry”, present in many Tuscan wines made with Sangiovese and not very appreciable from a quality point of view.
So it’s “Hurray for barrels”! An affirmation which seems a return to the past yet contains new elements in its increased respect for the cultural identity of the wine, it also comes from some scientific motivations which are irreproachable. This approach is on the same wavelength with Valerie Lavigne’s enthusiasm for the autochthonous grape varieties –Sangiovese e Foglia Tonda.
During her last visit to Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s wineries, from November 23rd to 25th, the French winemaker has tasted the wines from the 2010 vintage giving them an amazing evaluation. Her last discovery is the Sagrantino imported from the nearby Umbria (18 km) to the Fattoria del Colle vineyards in Trequanda which, in her opinion can be an excellent partner for the Sangiovese in the wines produced in southern Tuscany.
Barrels and Italian autochthonous grape varieties have consequently a new standard-bearer and we are very satisfied that these positive opinions come from a French woman.

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