Tuscany: one of the most important vinous regions in the world. Brunello: one of the most important wines in Italy. Biondi Santi: one of the most important, historic wine names in not just Italy, but the world. It’s fair to say we were all pretty excited when we heard that Tancredi Biondi Santi was coming to the FINE+RARE offices to taste through the Biondi Santi portfolio, before showcasing them at their best, alongside a wonderful meal at Zucca for a few F+R clients.
The Biondi Santi wine making dynasty stands on the shoulders of the young and enthusiastic Tancredi, who regaled us with stories from decades ago, referencing his ancestors and the change (or lack of) in the wine they produce and the way they do it. The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” constantly sprang to mind as he spoke of the unchanged philosophy and how things are done at this hillside winemaking mecca. He even entertained the table’s want for gossip from this much talked about region, given the fall outs, the scandal of Brunellopoli and the various battles with authority that the area has seen over the years. Granted – he was very diplomatic about it all – but what it showed is just how diverse and interesting Montlacino is.
This was then followed by a hatrick of wines from the family’s estate in Scansano – Castello di Montepo. This hillside castle is where Jacopo Biondi Santi made wines separate to his father; however, he is now at the helm of both.
2010 Morellino di Scansano, Castello di Montepo
“Longer maceration at lower temperatures than the Sassoalloro giving the Morellino di Scansano a deeper ruby colour. An expressive nose of intense red fruits; sour cherry dominating with hints of red plums and strawberry coming through. Good structure with high acidity, and tannins. Balanced with a long finish.”
2010 Sassoalloro, Castello di Montepo
“Quite closed nose with subtle aromas of sour cherry and strawberry. Refreshing on the palate, with smooth, ripe tannins giving excellent structure. An easy drinking wine with a long fruity finish. Powerful, yet elegant and refined.”
2004 Schidione, Castello di Montepo
“Long maceration and the high Cabernet content provide the wine with a very dark colour. The nose is an excellent blend of plummy merlot, dark fruit and cedar from the Cabernet Sauvignon and dried cherry and tobacco from the Sangiovese. The palate is full of rich dark fruit, with powerful tannins and a long finish.“
Having asked us to keep some of the Rosso in a separate glass, Tancredi guided us to compare it with the Sassoalloro. This is the same grape – the family’s very own clone – but grown in what is a very different area of Tuscany and in a more ‘modern’ style. The difference was easy to see with the Sassoalloro a little more accessible at this age, but delicious all the same. The wines from this estate are different in character, but are worthy wines in their own right.
A surprise wine thrown in at the last minute was the 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, which gave us an insight into what the 2009 might turn into. It was refined, yet had power, with tannins and a concentration of dark fruit that will see it age gracefully for another 20 years at least. The future of 2009s looks very bright indeed.
2004 Brunello di Montalcino
“Expressive nose of sour cherry, plum and strawberry. Notes of dried fruit coming through, adding additional depth and complexity. The fruit is sweeter on the palate and is balanced with the high acidity and tannins that have started to integrate beautifully.”
2009 Brunello di Montalcino
“Very closed on the nose, subtle aromas of sour cherry and red plum. Intense fruit concentration on the palate, balanced by the ripe tannins and acidity. A long finish with all the components to integrate and develop over the next 5 to 10 years.”
Next was the grand finale. Only made in the best years from grapes with a minimum age of 25 years, Biondi Santi’s Riservas are legendary. The cellars at the estate are famed for holding examples dating back over a century. Not for us tonight, though, but we were treated to two sensational back vintages: 1997 and 1998. Documented as ‘exceptional vintages’ by the family, they were showing perfectly after opening for a few hours.
1998 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
“Still an abundance of ripe, red fruit. Depth and complexity from the notes of dried fruits, leather and smoke. High tannins and acidity. Intense, complex and elegant. Smooth and silky with development of sweeter cherry notes starting to show. Seems younger than the 2004 with more complexity – huge potential to age.”
1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
“More powerful aromas than the ’98 – still youthful, a slightly reserved nose which opened in the glass to show dark cherry, leather, tobacco, vanilla and clove. The palate is rich, with intense cherry and dried fruit flavours. Superb – a huge, structured wine that clearly has the potential to continue evolving for decades.”
‘Wine royalty’ would certainly sum up the Biondi Santi family. True pioneers of the region and stalwarts of the Biondi Santi traditions, each generation is a trusted custodian of the rich history ingrained within the estate’s walls and vineyards. The fact they have their own clone of Sangiovese, the fact that their wines are proven to age over a century and the fact that not much has changed in the last 100 years, shows why they are the Godfather of Brunello estates. And the wines? Regal of course.
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