Biondi-Santi: The wonderment and beauty of wine

Biondi-Santi: The wonderment and beauty of wine

The long and picturesque row of towering trees that line the driveway at Biondi-Santi’s Tenuta Greppo estate is a welcome unlike any other.

The slow approach down the drive provides time to ponder this moment, this month (June 2023), and to imagine what it must be like for wine producers of Montalcino. Certainly, it was atypical. Moderately warm, the summer was constantly mingling with the threat of rainfall that ranged from light showers to lightning strikes and torrential downpours. Now going on its sixth consecutive week of unsettling rain, this summer is one that winemakers of Montalcino will talk about when they release the vintage.



For me, however, it provided an awareness and respect for how each year brings something unexpected and how each bottle carries a particular story.

On this warm summer day, shade from the trees provides dappled sunshine and shelter from the impending rains. A consistent breeze frames the sweeping views, and the rocky soil underfoot provides a solid and literal sense of place as I approach one of the most historical and founding estates of Montalcino. The feeling of wonderment is inescapable.

Located in the heart of Montalcino, the Tenuta Greppo estate spreads over 25 hectares of vines on soils rich in heavy stones, galestro, and marl for the cultivation of Sangiovese Grosso. The family champions their rich, enological heritage and continues to employ traditional viticultural methods that started well over a century ago to highlight the wine’s unique characteristics.

Touring the estate is itself a calming experience. All one can hear is the crunching of the rocky, calcareous soils, the wisp of the breeze that flicks the vine’s leaves, sending a lively rattle under the sky’s gentle roll of thunder.

Tenuta Greppo is closed to the public, making the visit special, secluded, harmonious with nature, unadulterated, and peaceful. While touring the estate of both old vines and newly planted, it was explained how the goal is not to undo the past or change the future but to simply put the resources provided by nature to better use. Hence, the Biondi-Santi studies the estate’s soils, parcels, expositions, and genetic material and how to use it best. Their attention to the soil, vineyards, and fruit is meticulous. But more than that Biondi-Santi is about gracefully respecting this uncontrollable nature that connects to the land, time, wine, and future.

As the wine springs from the land, the land emerges from time and from geological eras that provide Montalcino with soils of the past. The wine fuses past to future. The constant dialogue between land and time is an intimate dance that we, as wine lovers, can partake in.

The sips:

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva  2016
2016 was a textbook growing season; exceptional enough to produce a Riserva. A showery spring with mild temperatures gave way to a sunny and fresh summer that filled the air with warmth but still lower temperatures than the seasonal average. Rainfall towards the end of summer extended into pre-harvest time, promoting important day-to-night- temperature swings for slow and balanced ripening of the grapes. In the wine, a range of aromas, balanced tannins, remarkable aging potential, and delightfully drinkable today. (2023)  

Brunello di Montalcino 2017
2017 was marked by a hot, dry summer. Overall, the year was characterized by the absence of rain, except for a few spring downpours. A bit challenging and not ideal to make a Riserva, so all the fruit dedicated to Riserva came into this Brunello di Montalcino.

Despite the overly dry, hot summer, the wine offers a surprise of healthy, crispy, juicy red fruit with a splendid balance, thanks in part to the constant winds that blow through the estate. The energy that is Biondi-Santi comes through. The wine is in continual evolution toward elegance and finesse.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999 “La Storica”
Each year, Biondi-Santi takes one back vintage and re-releases it to give wine lovers a sense of depth in time. Overall, 1999 brought cold winter months, a wet spring, and dry and hot summer. A good year.

Drinking it today (2023 or 24 years later), the wine is generous, fruity, and velvety. Balsamic notes, blood orange, cherry, plum, and cola. The wine was produced from their proprietary clone of Sangiovese Grosso (BBS11), which was identified in the 1970s. This riserva came from the oldest vines over 25 years of age. 1999 is high voltage wine, the energy is inescapably bound in liquid. A time capsule that has evolved and is gracefully maturing, showcasing Biondi-Santi’s signature characteristics.

Rosso di Montalcino 2020
2020 experienced a mild and dry winter, followed by a cool spring and one very exceptional snowfall in March, which did not cause much damage. June was rainy, and the rest of summer was warm and dry, followed by refreshing rainfalls right before the September harvest.

The wine is now entering the market and shows vivacious fruit and freshness. The fruity core plays the leading role with crushed herbs, harnessing today’s drinkability that Rosso always aspires to be.

Departing Tenuta Greppo left me with an imprint that showcases Biondi-Santi’s respect for the family style and a consistency with the past that is carefully carried into the future. By listening to nature and working with what each vintage brings, Biondi-Santi delivers a freshness and a voltage of energy that reflects the past and present and charges its future and aging potential. Persistence lingers in the palate and in all the senses.

The wonderment and beauty of wine is a waltz between land and time.

[This peek into Tenuta Greppo would not be possible without the generosity of Biondi-Santi and Wilson Daniels. I am so very grateful.]

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