Brunello di Montalcino is a gorgeous red wine, the pride of Tuscany. The Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes that are grown on the slopes around the town of Montalcino, 30 km south of Siena in the Chianti wine region, Tuscany.
The name ‘Brunello’ – which is the diminutive of bruno, or brown in English – was given locally to a grape variety grown in Montalcino. In 1979, following some years of research the Ampelographic Commission of Siena determined that Sangiovese and Brunello were the same grape variety.
The first recorded red wine of Montalcino dates back to the early 14th century, but the all-Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino style was only created after the Risorgimento, around 1870. Ferruccio Biondi Santi had a huge role in the creation of this great wine.
However, the story begins with Clementine Santi, the grandfather of Ferruccio, who was a pharmaceutical graduated from the University of Pisa. Clemenine Santi’s mother, Petronilla Canali, owned a big estate in Montalcino where Santi developed his winemaking techniques using his knowledge of chemistry. In 1867, his Moscatello (desert wine) received recognition at the Universal Expo in Paris, and it also made a huge improvement in research on red wine.
Later on, Catrina Santi, Clementine’s daughter, married Jacopo Biondi, a Florentine doctor from an aristocratic family. Their son, Ferruccio Biondi Santi, inherited his grandfather’s estate and also his passion for wine.
Ferruccio was a patriot who fought in Garibaldi’s army during the Risorgimento for the unification of Italy.
He took over the Fattoria del Greppo, the estate of his grandfather, where he developed some revolutionary winemaking techniques using Clementine Santi’s extraordinary skills and experiences.
Ferruccio Biondi Santi used 100% pure, high quality Sangiovese for his Brunello, and he vinified the Sangiovese grapes separately from other grape varieties and aged his wine in wooden barrels, sometime for more than a decade.
By the end of World War II, the Brunello di Montalcino del Biondi Santi firm gained a reputation as one of the best wines of Italy. At that time, the only recorded producer of Brunello was the Biondi Santi firm, which had declared only four vintages by that time: 1888, 1891, 1925 and 1945.
The success of Brunello encouraged other producers to follow the Biondi Santi firm, so by the 1960s there were 11 Brunello producers.
In 1968, the Montalcino region was granted DOC status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and in 1980 it was the first region to be awarded DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) alongside Piedmont’s Barolo.
According to the regulation of production of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese and aged for at least 4 years (5 years for reserva), with 2 of these years being in oak barrels. The wine must be bottled at least for month before commercial release.
Today, there are around 200 producers of Brunello di Montalcino, mostly small farmers and family estates.
The Biondi Santi firm still produces one of the best Brunello in the world.