It is a rare phenomenon that a wine can trace its origins to a single man. Brunello di Montalcino, however, owes its existence to Ferruccio Biondi-Santi and its fame to his family. Now on the seventh generation of winemakers, the Biondi-Santi family continues to produce wines renowned for their elegance and extraordinary longevity. Located in the heart of Montalcino, the Tenuta Greppo estate spreads over 25 hectares of vines on soils rich in heavy stones and marl – perfect for the cultivation of Sangiovese Grosso. Defenders of a rich enological heritage, the family continues to employ traditional vinicultural methods started well over a century ago to highlight the wine’s unique characteristics, or tipicita.
Starting in the mid-1800s, Clemente Santi, a renowned writer and scientist, recognized the quality of the vineyards and viticulture at Il Greppo. Long before it became standard practice, Clemente chose to focus on red wines suitable for aging, creating racking and barrel-aging practices far more advanced than his peers’. Clemente’s innovative winemaking earned him considerable recognition, including an award for his “select red wine (Brunello) 1865” at the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Ferruccio Biondi continued to experiment in the vineyards. In fact, Ferruccio took such pride in the work his grandfather did, he united the two family names and became Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. Ferruccio worked diligently to combat the challenges posed by oidium and phylloxera. He used the work he had already begun on massal selection and identifying mother vines to his advantage, grafting only the best clones on American rootstock and replanting his vineyard with the offspring of the mother clones – propagating what would eventually become the Brunello Biondi-Santi, or BBS 11, clone. Ferruccio also made the bold decision to bottle a 100 percent Sangiovese wine, focusing, like Clemente did before him, on ageworthiness rather than quick profits. With this, the birth of modern-day Brunello di Montalcino began.
After Ferruccio’s death in 1917, his son Tancredi Biondi-Santi continued the line of succession and carried on the family tradition with meticulous care. He looked to the past to secure the future, laying away older vintages in the cellar. He even made the crucial call to secretly wall-up part of his cellar prior to World War II, concealing the oldest Riservas from the Front. In doing so, Biondi-Santi was eventually able to show the world how long-lived and complex Brunello could be. In 1966, Brunello di Montalcino became a DOC and the Italian government turned to Tancredi to assist in writing the regulations.
Tancredi brought the winery to new heights, but it was his son Franco who helped show the world what they could do. Franco traveled far and wide, promoting the wines and showing the power of the old Riservas. The reputation of the wines was only boosted in 1980 when Brunello di Montalcino became the first DOCG in Italy.
Franco expanded Il Greppo from 4 acres to 25, but continued to be a staunch believer in traditional viniculture. Today, Franco’s son, Jacopo, and his son, Tancredi, represent the sixth and seventh generations carrying on the family legacy. -- Wilson Daniels, Importer