Updated: Oct 10, 2021
A ‘changing of the guard’ has occurred at Biondi Santi: no longer the 7th generation of that revered wine family rule over the vineyards in Montalcino…
The desk, hat and coat of that glorious past all but remains as worn by the formidable Franco Biondi Santi, who with a combination of genius, intelligence, curiosity and perseverance had promoted his estate to a level of global recognition (Franco Biondi Santi, January 1922 - April 2013 RIP).
The Biondi Santi estate changed hands in December 2016 when it was purchased by the French group EPI, the independent company led by Christopher Descours. This group also own Piper-Heidsieck, Charles Heidsieck and Rare Champagne. Their other interests include partnerships with distribution and production companies such as Folio Fine Wine Partners, originally set up by the Mondavi family in the USA.
Back to Montalcino and Biondi Santi, it has to be said that apart from one or two exceptional vintages the past 15 years had left Biondi Santi in a time warp. While the wine world, and especially of Brunello di Montalcino has raced on, evolving and re-evolving, it is now a slick, well marketed and controlled industry that produces and sells approximately 9 million bottles annually to a globally expanding audience. Such is the demand that (in great vintages) even double the production would not succeed in satisfying it.
All this had little or no effect on Franco Biondi Santi at Tenuta Greppo, after all, there is only one Biondi Santi with its special Sangiovese clone (BBS11), a wine that is unique in its soul, body and longevity.
The need for a fresh approach was required and, in my opinion, the sale was the correct move and to the right people.
Over the past 4 to 5 years, a considerable amount of intelligent thought has resulted in important changes at Biondi Santi.
In times past the younger vines would go to make the Rosso, the older vines the Brunello and the eldest the Riserva. This system been now abandoned. Today, it is all about individual parcels of production and what they bring to the blend. This innovative approach has followed an extensive soil analysis over a prolonged period of time. It is a radical, clever and bold step for Biondi Santi which in time will assist greatly its future success.
The cellars at Biondi Santi remind me of the famous maze at Hampton Court Palace in England: a warren of small rooms leading off each other in all directions, in a word….a nightmare!
So a new winery is to be built adjacent to the oldest vines (1930’s) at Il Greppo. This again, in time, will bring new proven advantages to further enhance the quality of the end product.
Specialised marketing needs to be given the opportunity to succeed and old unloved bottles of Biondi Santi seem to be popping up in all sorts of unsuitable places, like abandoned trophies! Again, a clever campaign to purchase these ‘rogue ’bottles was instigated and nearly one million Euro’s was spent in their collection, so not to have an adverse effect on future marketing.
The investment and serious intent of the new owners to restore the winery to its former glory is there to be seen. But money alone does not make great wine, people do: this is where the main strength of this operation is to be found.
When I visited Biondi Santi recently I found the place buzzing with energy. Sabine Cappelli kindly spent over four hours of her valuable time talking about the history and the potential future of ‘her’ estate and was a joy to listen to and learn from. Her infectious engagement laid the foundations for all the people involved in this new venture that I met, and conversed with all the way up to its new CEO Giampiero Bertolini (see video at the end of the article).
Make no mistake, there is a “cast in stone’ determination to return this estate to its former glory. Of course, this will not be achieved in the short term, but it will happen. The intent, focus and drive to reach this task are tangible.
So exciting times have returned to Biondi Santi. I for one applaud the effort made so far, and wish the wine gods to smile on Tenuta Greppo.
Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino 2018
Medium Ruby red in colour with bright under tones. Red fruit led by cherry. Faint florals, a waft of balsamic notes. Hint of orange peel. Nothing stands out in particular, except for the clean fresh mouthfeel. Wonderful texture. Balanced within a millimetre of its life. Just coats the mouth with liquid joy.
Points 95 TW
Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Red ruby in colour. Red fruits, rose essence, plum, raspberry, damp earth, faint balsamic notes. This wine is a little closed and therefore difficult to read. It has depth, good balance and ultra fine tannins with fresh acidity. Soft contours. Not showing the structure I expected.
Points 93+ TW
Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2011
Red ruby in colour with dark undertones. Faint floral aromatics, red fruits, plum, notes of Eastern spice. Warm on the mid palate. Vertical. Sweet citrus notes on close.
Points 93 TW
Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2009
Ruby red with garnet highlights. Strong aromatics of rose petal, under-bush and blue florals. Cherry fruit and raspberries, cedar. Undeniable texture. Moves with grace and elegance. Warm, juicy and inviting. A little tight coming off the mid palate, this wine has long journey ahead of it.
Points 93+ TW
Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2013
Deep garnet red in colour. Rose petals, red fruits, notes of spice. Elegant. Good width on mid palate, had a citrusy character about it. A bit of a hobbledehoy, powerful yet restrained. This wine is intent to confuse going in one direction and then changing. So much fun to be had with this over the years.
Points 93-95 TW
P.S. Giampiero Bertolini (CEO Biondi Santi) told me they very nearly did not make the Riserva… I, for one, am grateful they did!
Video: High Five with Tony Wood & Giampiero Bertolini, CEO Biondi Santi