Brunello wines from Montalcino Tuscany are made from superior clones of Sangiovese grapes, barreled and bottled for five years. The 2012 is the latest vintage. Taste of Wine columnist Frank Mangio reveals his 2001 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino as his most valued wine. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The elegance of Brunello, Tuscany’s crowning achievement

The most valuable wine I have in my wine collection is a Biondi-Santi Brunello Di MontalcinoTenuta Greppo 2001, made by Franco Biondi-Santi, the creator of modern day Brunello from Montalcino, Tuscany.

Brunello is considered to be the most treasured of wines in all of Italy, cultivated from a superior clone of the Sangiovese grape, Tuscany’s homeland grape which has turned out a current vintage 2012 that has excelled over many in recent history.

Taste of Wine columnist Frank Mangio reveals his 2001 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino as his most valued wine.

Young Sangiovese grapes have fruity flavors of strawberry and a bit of spice as it is the grape of Chianti, but when it carries the banner for Brunello in massive casks for some four years plus one in bottle, it takes on a strong oak finish with power, finesse and notes of leather, iron, wild sage and tea; a truly exclusive texture woven into fresh acidity. The grape is also the standard-bearer for “Super Tuscan,” a blend similar to a Bordeaux style normally found with Cabernet and Merlot and not subject to the years long wait that is a signature for Brunello.

The origin of Sangiovese dates back to Roman times. The word means “the Blood of Jove,” the Roman Jupiter. It is the most widely planted red grape varietal in all of Italy with more than 250,000 acres produced. Argentina is next with just 6,900 acres planted. It doesn’t seem to do that well in California and wine makers must carefully monitor it for success.

Washington state has shown success with Sangiovese in Walla Walla.

In the 1800s a Montalcino farmer named Clemente Santi isolated certain clones of Sangiovese that would promote aging, and his grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi released the first version of Brunello di Montalcino. In the 1900s it was one of the most-after wines in all of Italy. The Montalcino district was declared to have ideal conditions for Sangiovese that ages to the full potential of Brunello. 

Longevity is the main characteristic of Biondi-Santi at its Greppo estate just south of Montalcino. Some library bottles at his winery are 100 or more years old. The winery suggests 30 years as average for the essence of flavor and body. A fascinating service to customers is the “Topping Off” ritual, where the wines of favored customers are brought to the winery to check on their condition, and to extend their life. Worn out corks are replaced and any loss of wine is replaced with the exact same vintage as the bottle, from the private cellars of the recently deceased Franco Biondi-Santi, who made the process famous. Any “defective” wines due to incorrect customer storage and over-the-top temperature exposure cannot be certified, with the winery’s apologies of course. 

Today, more than 200 wineries produce Brunello in the Montalcino area, the largest being Banfi, which has been written about in previous Taste of Wine issues and has a large variety of remarkable wines. Other names to know with 2012 Brunellos are: Argiano ($43), Altesino ($65), Castiglion del Bosco ($50), Il Poggione ($80) and La Serena ($50) The other great year for Brunello is the 2010, with a perfect late summer, ideal for the later harvest. Brunello is best served at 64 degrees and does best with red meats and sharp hard cheeses. To learn more about Biondi-Santi Brunello, visit

Wine Bytes

Il Fornaio in Del Mar is having its September Festa Regionale Tour of Sicilian food and wine Sept. 4 through Sept. 24. A special menu is presented with entrees like Agnello al Limone and Branzino alla Trapanese. Try the Sicilian Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine from Planeta, 2015. A special three-course tasting menu is just $36.95. A wine flight of three half-glasses goes for $15.95. For details, call (858) 755-8876.

The Temecula Valley Winegrowers are presenting their annual Crush event from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sept. 30, hosted by Monte De Oro Winery. Admission is $89 with VIP access $110 for early entry and a glass of sparkling wine with leading winemakers. See

The Summer Cinema Series at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is showing “Bottle Shock” from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Cellar Room. It will be experienced with four wines and a selection of treats. Cost is $30 per person.  Limited admission. RSVP at (760) 479-2500.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at Go to menu then column. Reach him at