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Wine, Food, art & wellness in Montalcino, Tuscany
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Clemente Santi - Brunello di Montalcino
Clemente Santi

Ferruccio Biondi Santi - Brunello di Montalcino
Ferruccio Biondi Santi

Tancredi Biondi Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Tancredi Biondi Santi

Franco Biondi Santi-Brunello di Montalcino
Franco Biondi Santi

Riccardo Paccagnini and Brunello di Montalcino
Riccardo Paccagnini

Giovanni Colombini, Brunello di Montalcino
Giovanni Colombini

old vintages barbi pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino
Old vintages of Brunello di Montalcino Barbi and Pertimali

History of Brunello di Montalcino

The Biondi Santi Dynasty

Clemente Santi

Clemente Santi was born on September 17, 1795 in Montalcino to Luigi Santi, a pharmacist and member of the local Astrusi Academy and Petronilla Canali, granddaughter of a famous scholar. Clemente believed in a fertile cultural environment graduating in Pharmacy from the University of Pisa and then becoming a correspondent for the Florentine Academy of Georgofili and a collaborator of the Tuscan Agrarian Journal. Around 1820, agricultural problems sparked his curiosity when he saw the necessity to avoid improvising and to imitate the English giving a scientific tone to cultivation.

He planted selected vines on the Greppo estate where he experimented with new methods of vinification. His wines received awards in Florence, Paris and London in 1850. He immediately understood the value of the foreign market and presented the first bottle with the name Brunello di Montalcino in 1865.

Ferruccio Biondi Santi

Grandson of Clemente, Ferruccio fought against the vine disease phylloxera in order to save the vines. He noted that the Moscadello di Montalcino grapes suffered a great deal while the red Tuscan crops, like Sangiovese, suffered less damage including Brunello, Sangiovese Grosso. He consequently decided to select these grapes for his wines and worked hard in the vineyards and cellar to show that the Brunello grapes alone could be used for a wine that was to be aged for a long time. He limited the crop yields to obtain richer grapes and selected only the best bunches of grapes for the reserve.

He left the wine on the skins for a longer time during fermentation to extract the structural aromatic characteristics that resist over time. Ferruccio Biondi Santi’s Brunello was aged for years in big oak barrels resulting in rich tannins with an elevated level of acidity. The first great vintage of Brunello was the legendary 1888. There are still some bottles left at Greppo of this renowned vintage.

Tancredi Biondi Santi

Ferruccio’s son, Tancredi Biondi Santi, was born in 1893. He graduated in Agronomy from the University of Pisa in 1926 and started a cooperative cellar in Montalcino called “Biondi Santi & C. Cantina Sociale” encouraging the planting of Brunello vines and others to work with him. Another wave of phylloxera hit followed by the Great Depression in 1929 and the Second World War. In spite of challenging circumstances, Tancredi continued to produce Brunello di Montalcino.

Tancredi’s Brunello di Montalcino made a name for itself worldwide, so much so that the President of the Republic Saragat had the 1955 Reserve served at a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at the Italian Embassy in London in 1969. In 1970 Tancredi conducted the ceremony of ricolmatura, his unique process of topping up bottles of the older vintages, in this case Brunello 1888, 1891, 1925 and 1945 together with his son, Franco, notary Don Giovanni Cuiso and writers Mario Soldati and Luigi Veronelli.

Franco Biondi Santi

Franco Biondi Santi was born in 1922. He graduated in Agriculture in Perugia and began working side by side with father Tancredi in the 1950s in the production of Brunello di Montalcino. He became the legendary man of Brunello and of Italian wine in general for the extremely high quality of his wines and for his battle to defend the identity of Brunello. Considered a philosopher of wine, a great dreamer, an exceptional agronomist and oenologist, he is known all over the world as the gentleman of Brunello for his unique style and culture that are reflected in his wines.

Franco Biondi Santi’s first harvest was in 1970. The same vintage’s Reserve is a bestseller worldwide even today. His Brunellos have exceptional organoleptic characteristics and bring an unmistakable signature of a centuries-old gamble on the most authentic potential of Sangiovese.

The other leaders of Brunello

Raffaello Padelletti

Raffaello Padelletti was born in Montalcino in the first half of the 19th century. He graduated in Law and then started his career as a notary. He inherited an immense patrimony of farm holdings and buildings from his father. He started to produce wine in Montalcino out of pure passion, became a supporter of the production of Brunello and was one of the first to use art nouveau labels.

Riccardo Paccagnini

Riccardo Paccagnini graduated in Agriculture from the University of Rome. He collaborated with the great producers of wine in Montalcino at the end of the 19th century experimenting innovative methods of vinification and recorded these experiences at the beginning of the 1900s in his dissertation “Practical and Theoretical Paper on Agriculture and Oenology”.

Giovanni Colombini

Giovanni Colombini, descendant of an old noble Sienese family, was born in 1903 in Sassari. He graduated in Law from the University of Moderni where his father was the rector. He returned to Montalcino in 1935 to manage the Fattoria dei Barbi and was a pioneer of direct sales by bringing agricultural products directly to his clients on the table and by selling Brunello by mail order making it known all over the world and opening up the main markets.

In 1936, he became “Podestà” in Montalcino and organized the restoration of the Fortress, Sant’Antimo Abbey, the Church of Sant’Agostino and the City Hall. He was the first in Italy to believe in wine tourism when opened his cellar to visitors in 1960. Convinced that only with a great production would it be possible to promote top quality products globally, he achieved his goal by producing 100,000 bottles of Brunello in 1968.

The Brunello Boom

The mid-80s saw the beginning of a trend of buying up wineries in Montalcino. However the explosion of Brunello fame actually began in 1995 when the knowledge and capacity of producing wines of absolute excellence took root on a global level. It was actually in the 90s when Montalcino became known as the definitive wine producing area. This resulted in the partial substitution of the first vineyards planted in the 60s increasing the density per hectare from 3,000 to 4,500 – 5,000 vines.

Today there are about 250 wineries that produce Brunello for a production of about 6.5 million bottles. Brunello di Montalcino is the best-selling high quality wine in Italy and has become the flagship of Tuscan and Italian wines in the world.

The Brunello Myth

Producing Brunello has become today a mythical dream of numerous VIPs: many famous people including artists, entrepreneurs, insurers, noblemen, lawyers, and real estate agents have come to Montalcino to buy estates where the legendary Brunello is produced. Among these is Richard Parsons, former head of the colossal media group AOL Time Warner and current chairmen of Citigroup, the biggest finance company in the world, the transavanguard artist Sandro Chia, Salvatore Ligresti of SaiAgricola, Francesco and Riccardo Illy of the coffee empire, from Alto Adige Rainer Loacker well-known in the confectionery industry and Massimo Ferragamo of fashion design fame.

The land in Montalcino has undergone a stellar revaluation: in 1967 a hectare of land planted with vines was worth 1.8 million lire (€15,500) while today it is valued between €500,000 and €600,000.

The Brunello di Montalcino Brand

Today Brunello di Montalcino is a common brand known all over the world that impacts winemakers, local institutions, businesses, hotels, restaurants and all operators in the Val d’Orcia. It is estimated that about a billion euros of business hinge from the Brunello di Montalcino brand, an economic giant among the many expressions of the “Made in Italy” moniker.

Museo del Brunello