The famed terroir is situated about two kilometers from the imposing fortress in Montalcino.
Five hundred meters of cypress trees frame the entry to Tenuta Greppo, home of Biondi-Santi wines in southern Tuscany.
We join three other couples and Sabine, our guide, to learn some history of this six generation family of winemakers dating to the 17th century.
Clemente Santi is credited with isolating the Sangiovese clone and development of the first 100% Sangiovese wine. The first Brunello was created in 1888. The Biondi-Santi name was designated after the marriage of Caterina Santi to a nobleman.
On 25 hectares of the 150 hectares property, BBS11 (the Brunello Biondi-Santi clone) is grown. The weather decides the vintage.
Franco Biondi-Santi, who died in 2013 at the age of 91, established expectations for the Rosso, Brunello Annate and Brunella Riserva. His eldest son Jacopo Biondi-Santi, who runs the estate today, has adhered to his father’s standards and changed little, according to our guide.
Grapes are harvested by hand. Slavonic Croatian oak barrels are utilized to promote maximum Sangiovese taste and minimum barrel effect on the wine. Biondi-Santi uses these barrels over a lifetime and more: there are four remaining from 1860 and four from 1930 in use.
Our tour takes us into the cellar, where barrels age the precious wine. A device created by Leonardo da Vinci provides an air seal and allows expansion during fermentation.
We sense the role of tradition and passion of Franco Biondi-Santi in the creative process today.
Brunello, aged in oak three years, sold in five years, is complex, with softer tannins, berries, and persistence on the palate. If an intended Brunello does not meet expectations, it is instead designated a Rosso di Montalcino, with a red banner on the label.
The Biondi-Santi Riserva is aged in oak four years and is not released until six years after the harvest.
Eighty to ninety thousand bottles are produced annually.
We leave with some Brunello for our own tasting at our stone cottage on the olive farm in the heart of this glorious region, where the Sangiovese grape reigns.
Photos by James and Lisa Richardson