Biondi Santi is a historical estate in every sense of the word. In the mid-nineteenth century Clemente Santi isolated the Sangiovese clone to create Brunello; in 1880, his grandson Ferruccio formally established the estate, and his visionary son, Tancredi, brought the estate into prominence. In 1927, Tancredi instituted the primarily Burgundian practice of “topping off” his vintage Riserva wines. He would open each bottle, test the wine, fill the bottle to the correct level with the same vintage Riserva, and cork the bottle anew. Winemakers know that even in the best possible cellar conditions corks shrink, thus allowing wine to evaporate; most, however, don’t take the measures that Biondi-Santi does. Tancredi was devoted to maintaining optimal conditions for his intensely age-worthy Riservas, and beginning in 1990, under the guidance of Franco, the estate began topping off their clients’ Riserva wines as well.
This attention to detail means that when we offer our clients a rare opportunity to purchase vintage Biondi-Santi, we do so with certain knowledge that the wines come with both impeccable provenance and unparalleled care. Rarely do wine-lovers get a chance to drink vintage Biondi-Santi, and this is exactly what we are offering today: 1946, 1958 and 1961 Riservas, vintages crafted by Tancredi Biondi-Santi, as well as more recent vintages, which come from the hand the Gentleman of Montalcino, Franco Biondi-Santi. All of the older Riserva wines we’re offering today have been “topped off,” a process designated by the wines’ cork and its estate-issued card, and all of the wines, regardless of bottling or vintage, are in pristine condition.
Decade after decade, Biondi-Santi wines are in a class by themselves: pure, fresh, historic expressions of Brunello, and the epitome of why Biondi-Santi Brunello has long owned its comparison to fine Burgundy estates. These are wines that defy time, growing better, mellower, more nuanced and more meditative with each passing year–even as they retain their vibrancy and their fresh Montalcino fruit.
With each generation at Biondi-Santi, Ferruccio’s vision advances a step further. His son, Tancredi, assumed control of the estate in 1922, effectually becoming the ambassador for Montalcino’s wines. More importantly, he possessed the insight to stock vintage wines—including the legendary 1888 and 1891—under lock and key. In 1927 he instituted the custom of recorking old bottles and topping them off with wine from the same vintage. Tancredi wrote the standards for the DOC that eventually formed the law regulating Brunello production. However, it was his opposition to producing a secondary wine—Vino Rosso dai Vigneti di Brunello—that prompted his decision to remain independent. At this time, the wines of Biondi-Santi achieved legendary status. Tancredi’s 1970 recorking ceremony attracted worldwide attention, as his 82-year-old wine evidenced unprecedented youth and splendor. Today, it is Tancredi’s son, Franco Biondi-Santi, who runs the estate, producing nearly 70,000 bottles a year.
Less than 700 cases of the Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva are made in choice years, with only a small percentage making it to the States. The Riserva is crafted from older vines between 25 and 80 years of age, while the Annata is derived from vines between the ages of ten and 15 years. Grapes for both wines are sourced primarily from the Greppo plot, which consists of stony galestro soil intermixed with tufaceous clay. However, it is the altitude—ranging from 400 to 500 meters—that accounts for Biondi-Santi’s trademark aromatics and acidity. The wines undergo fermentation in traditional Slavonian oak for 18 days, followed by aging in large oak casks of 800 to 7,000 liters for a period of two to three years. The Riserva is released six years after the harvest.