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Behind the Bottle: Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino was created by Tuscan estate Biondi-Santi. We take a look at what goes into making the cult wine, and how it’s stayed true to its origins throughout the years

WORDS BY ADAM LECHMERE

For a certain type of wine lover there are few more recognisable labels than the Brunello di Montalcino of Biondi-Santi. The story of this great dynasty is the story of a handful of men, charismatic and powerful characters succeeding one another (and ultimately falling out), each looking to the future not only of their family, but of the whole of Montalcino. Biondi-Santi created Brunello, and it remains the most iconic name in this much-loved appellation, the finest vintages of its flagship label, the Riserva, among the world’s most sought-after wines.

Biondi-Santi produces three wines: Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, made from the oldest vines on the Il Greppo estate, and only in exceptional years. The last patriarch of the house, Franco Biondi-Santi, considered the 1891 Riserva the vintage against which all future vintages should be measured; the 1955 is much-loved; 1955, 1964 and 1975 are considered immortal.

In later vintages, the 2012 – the last made by Franco before his death the following year at the age of 91 – is a landmark. Only 39 vintages of Riserva have been made since 1888. That vintage was last opened in 1994 and pronounced delicious by the wine writer Nicolas Belfrage MW; there are only two bottles left. “We don’t know when we’ll open them,” Biondi-Santi managing director Giampiero Bertolini says with a smile.

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Behind the Bottle: Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino