1970, Biondi Santi, Brunello Montalcino Riserva

Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

(Priced at per bottle)

Score: 0

Drinking Dates: NA

Critic: NA

Tasted: NA

This older release is paired with the 2011 Riserva in a special packaging effort now proposed by the new management team at Tenuta Greppo. The Biondi-Santi 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva was never previously reviewed; therefore, I am very excited to add an official record of this stunning wine to our database. This vintage delivers structure and age-worthy intensity that should carry it forward successfully for more years ahead. However, if you decide to pop the cork now, rest assured that this excellent Brunello has now entered its prime drinking window. The bouquet is polished and fine, with wild fruit aromas that segue to balsam herb and licorice. The finish is long and extremely polished. This is a real beauty. The iconic cypress-lined drive to Tenuta Greppo in Montalcino ushers you through a quiet and shady passageway onto the spiritual birthplace of Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most celebrated and historic wines. This is the location of Tenuta Biondi Santi, previously owned by the very family credited with inventing the 100% Sangiovese-based wine in the late 1800s. Four generations ago, Ferruccio Biondi Santi produced what would become the first commercial bottling of oak-aged Brunello di Montalcino in 1888. Today, Tenuta Biondi Santi is part of an important trend that is changing the landscape of this popular and profitable wine appellation. It is among the largest—and definitely the most symbolic—of Montalcino’s wine estates to pass from Italian family ownership to foreign investors. Other recent acquisitions to non-Italian buyers include La Cerbaiona (sold to American venture capitalist Gary Rieschel), Podere Salicutti (now owned by a German restaurant entrepreneur), Podere Brizio (sold to Argentinian businessman Alejandro Bulgheroni) and Poggio Antico (bought by Belgium’s Atlas Invest). In late 2016, the Biondi Santi family signed a partnership deal with France’s luxury goods firm Européenne de Participations Industrielles (EPI) for a majority stake. According to the Italian financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, the deal was valued at 107 million euros. It includes the brand, the Tenuta Greppo property and 26 hectares of Sangiovese vines. The total property includes 47 hectares of land at Il Greppo and 105 hectares in Pieri. Annual production is 60,000 to 80,000 bottles, depending on the vintage. The Paris-based EPI holding company is owned by Christopher Descours. The firm owns the Charles and Piper-Heidsieck Champagne labels (and Piper Sonoma in the USA). The Descours family also owns Château La Verrerie in the Lubéron area of the Rhône Valley. Following the death of Franco Biondi Santi at the age of 91 in 2013, the business passed onto his son Jacopo Biondi Santi and other heirs (Jacopo’s mother and his sister). Jacopo remains active at the estate as does his son, Tancredi, who is becoming the new face of the Tenuta. Although I was not independently able to confirm this myself, the Italian daily La Repubblica reports that Jacopo Biondi Santi has maintained a 7.99% stake in Tenuta Biondi Santi Spa. The Chief Executive Officer is Olivier Adnot who was born in Champagne and would later become winemaker and director of Château La Verrerie. I visited with Olivier Adnot and Tancredi Biondi Santi in mid-January to get a better sense of the strategy for the future. When you speak to members of the Montalcino wine community, a common fear expressed is that the new French ownership will disrupt the Biondi Santi production philosophy that is so firmly rooted in local tradition. Both men assured me that this is not the case. “We don’t want to change tradition,” Tancredi tells me. “We want to keep the Brunello exactly the way it is, but we can also improve.” Olivier says four million euros will be invested in Tenuta Biondi Santi over the next two to three years. “We will invest in technology, but we don’t want to make a technological wine,” he says. The winery purchased an