Wine specialist Noah May explains why this is probably, and deservedly, the most lauded of all Tuscan wines — offered in our Christie’s Wine Online/NYC sale, until 10 April
Established in the mid 1800s, Biondi-Santi is one of Italy’s greatest historic estates. While some might argue that Barolo is the king of Italian wines, when looking at the extraordinary balance, elegance and longevity of Biondi-Santi’s wines, there is a compelling argument that it is Brunello that deserves the crown.
The winery was originally founded by chemistry graduate Clemente Santi — recorded in 1869 as having won two silver medals for his ‘vino rosso scelto (Brunello) del 1865’ at Montepulciano’s agricultural fair — but it was in the late 19th century, under the guidance of his grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, that the estate made viticultural history. Ferruccio Biondi-Santi took a clone of the Sangiovese grape, known as Sangiovese Grosso, and produced the first ever Brunello. Biondi-Santi is the home of Brunello di Montalcino.
Brunello di Montalcino began at Il Greppo, the Biondi-Santi estate, in the 19th century. Biondi-Santi Brunello's trademark aromatics and acidity can be attributed to the vineyard’s altitude, which ranges between 1,300 and 1,600 feet above sea level
Biondi-Santi’s wines are made from 100 per cent Sangiovese, and many would argue that theirs is the purest and most profound iteration of the noble Tuscan grape. Biondi-Santi is known to be one of the great traditionalist estates, whose focus and objective is to craft wines of both power and delicacy, which have the ability to age over great expanses of time.
Biondi-Santi’s vineyards have a particular microclimate, characterised by a marked difference between diurnal and nocturnal temperatures, accentuated in September and October, during the harvesting period. These differences in temperature help the grapes to ripen slowly and express the complex, nuanced aromas of true Brunello di Montalcino.
As the old adage goes, there are no great old wines, only great bottles — and that’s certainly true here. I once tasted a bottle of the legendary 1955 Biondi-Santi, only to find that, sadly, it had not been well cared-for and was tragically oxidised — it was one of the most disappointing vinous moments of my career.
To find a collection of the size, quality and concentration of exceptional vintages such as that being offered in our online sale (until 10 April) is staggeringly rare. Usually these older vintages are relics that might appear as odd bottles with irregular lives behind them. Here we are delighted to offer a collection that has only moved from the cellars of Il Greppo, after acquisition by the current consignor. The storage conditions and heritage of the wines are impeccable. This is as rare a collection as you can find.
These are wines that are made to last for many decades — if not centuries. In 1970, the 1888 Biondi-Santi was re-corked and tasted and there was purportedly a consensus that the wine was elegant, fresh and full of vibrancy. Biondi-Santi’s wines are the antithesis of the new wave of Brunello, which can be deep in colour, oak-framed and lacking in poise.
Biondi-Santi’s wines are aged in large, old Slavonian oak casks, which act as neutral vessels rather than transformative structures. The results can be staunch, tannic beasts in youth, but with patience they can evolve into some of the most compelling wines you’ll ever taste. The 1964 and 1975 are heralded as some of Italy’s greatest wines, and the 1955 was voted one of Wine Spectator’s greatest wines of all time.
The wines that feature in our online sale are offered with impeccable provenance. The bottles were topped-off and re-corked in the Il Greppo cellars by Franco Biondi-Santi with a notary on hand to confirm the authenticity and viability of the process. The collection was acquired by the current owner directly from the winery, and these wines have only been in Biondi-Santi’s cellars and Octavian Vaults in the UK, before release to Christie’s. Each bottle comes with a Certificato di Ricolmatura to prove it has been through the ricolmata process. This is a unique opportunity to delve into the cellars of one of the wine world’s greatest estates.