Unfortunately for us, Biondi Santi’s amazing history in the production of Brunello is much more impressive than their appointment taking skills. Apparently, the woman I spoke with to book our appointment and tasting was on maternity leave when we arrived in Italy. Wiped from the books and without an appointment, we waited and waited for our turn to taste these great wines.
The beautiful grounds of the Biondi Santi estate are not a bad place to relax and wait so we found ourselves in no terrible hurry. Finally, we were ushered into the cellar by a congenial tour guide that, regrettably, did not speak a lick of English. He pointed, we shrugged, and we all struggled to understand. Finally, we were met by an English-speaking woman who gave us a taste of the 2001 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino. It was good, but that is all we tasted. Happily, we were not charged a fee for our “tour and tasting.”
Anyway, the history goes something like this. Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, in the 1860s, planted a special breed of Sangiovese known as Brunello or Sangiovese Grosso. The clone was attractive because it had smaller berries that would presumably produce more concentrated flavors. In addition, the clone was more resistant to Phylloxera, an insect destructive to grapes vines at their roots. Ferruccio replanted his entire vineyard with the new clone and, viola, Brunello di Montalcino was born. He also decided to age the wines in oak and in bottle before releasing them which at the time was unheard of because Italians enjoyed light, young red wines.
The wines are still today made in an old-school style where ageing is required to fully enjoy them. The fruit is somewhat behind the other characteristics, and the acidity is distinctly decipherable. I like the style very much but it is not for everyone. I certainly can’t say it was the best tasting of the day, but we did visit a place where wine history was made. Not bad for a Thursday afternoon!