Forbes: Wines of the Week: Two Great Bottles of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (Biondi-Santi)
July 15, 2019
Any discussion about Brunello di Montalcino by definition begins with Biondi-Santi, since they were the first producer to craft the wine under that name: In one of their cellars hangs a copy of a document from the agricultural exposition of 1869 on which the supposed first reference in writing on an official form appears the name “brunello” (it’s in lower-case on the document, I was told, because the powers-that-be didn’t recognize the word as anything but a marketing ploy by the producer).
How things have changed in the 150 years since then!
Fast-forward to today, and Biondi-Santi, with their partners the France-based Epi Group, is in the middle of an effort to study and better understand their land parcel by parcel. A two-year-long project like this is rather expensive, and being able to fund it more easily is one of the big advantages of the new partnership. Still, CEO Giampiero Bertolini told me during our tasting, the goal is to steadily improve the wines without losing the character that has always made them such standouts in the appellation. He’s looking to keep the inimitable character of Biondi-Santi, but to start an evolution in terms of quality, not a revolution. “We cannot stay and rely on what has been done in the past,” he told me. To that end, 35% of this year’s profits will be plowed right back into the estate to continue improving their wines’ quality.
Given how brilliantly everything I tasted there was showing—the 1995 Riserva was an otherworldly melange of mint, caramelized stone fruit, cigar humidor, and flowers, each sip seeming to pick up energy and tension, promising decades of further evolution—that’s an incredible thought. One of my red Wines of the Week, then, is the Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006, which is their current-release of the Riserva on the American market. With slight and perfectly age-appropriate bricking at the edges, it hovers above the glass with a distinctly minty aroma, the balsamic and more floral notes rounded out by hints of plums and cherries. They all set the stage for a palate in a brilliant place of early maturity: This is a wine that’s savory and energetic, with cherries, mixed plums, and blood oranges kissed by tarragon, licorice, and a touch of forest floor. There’s still remarkable concentration to the fruit here, and with its seam of acidity running through the long finish, this promises to evolve for another 40-plus years and well beyond, easily.