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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, July 28 2008. 17:41

Wineries of Brunello di Montalcino

The tasting organised by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino at their office offered 64 labels. However, tastings are always enhanced by personal visits and based on the tastings of  44 wines at the Consorzio; Subhash Arora opted to visit the following wineries and report:

Capanna, Coldisole, Biondi Santi, Banfi, Fattoria dei Barbi, Tenute Silvio Nardi, Castelli Martinozzi, Tenuta Friggiali and Donna Olga, Poggio di Sotto, Caparzo
and a drive-in visit to Fuligni. Here is the account of what I saw, sipped and spat:


Cencioni in theCapanna Cellar
Owned and run by Patrizio Cencioni, the new President of the Consorzio; he was the vice president when the President decided to resign on July 9th and was elected to the post on July 12th. The small winery produces Rosso which is aged for 2 years where most others do it for a year. Therefore, the 2007 is not out yet.

The wine will be ready to drink in 3-4 years and has an expected life of 10 years. The full bodied Rosso 2006 was still austere, though quite spicy and full bodied. Surprisingly, a bottle his son, Amedeo told me had been opened for 4 days was still quite fresh and lively to drink.

The 2003 Brunello was well structured, strongly tannic, and was full on the mouthfeel. The 2000 Riserva was excellent though it would still need a few more years to give out its best. Very concentrated fruit and complex flavours in that wine.

They produce 70,000 bottles out of which almost 25-30,000 each are Brunello and Rosso. 5-8,000 bottles of Moscadello and the balance small quantities of Sant'Antimo 
complete their portfolio.


Owned by a passionate businessman Lionello Marchesi, the winery produces only Brunello, Riserva and Rosso. With a vineyard acreage of only 6 h/A the winery is perhaps not well suited to serve the Indian market. The wines also were not fresh and crisp or exciting.

The owning winery Castello di Monastero is perhaps concentrating more on their Chianti Classico production  in Castelnuovo Berardenga.

For more info, visit

Biondi Santi

Franco Biondi Santi
This is undisputedly the 'First Winery' of Montalcino with Ferruccio Biondi Santi who created the Brunello wine in 1888 would be the 'Father of Brunello'. Many clones of Brunello (a nick name for Brunette, popularly known as Grosso in the area) were created by this winery. BBS 11 is the Sangiovese clone created by the family and is still used by many other producers as well. 
If Ferruccio created Brunello, his son Tancredi Biondi Santi improved the production to perfection. He is also credited as being one of the architects who developed the Standards for the Appellation of Brunello di Montalcino when it was formed in 1967.

Franco Biondi Santi is the grandson who is maintaining oenological tradition of the family and with whom our group had the pleasure of tasting his wines. That Brunello is truly an age-worthy wine can be gauged from the cellar which Franco unlocked for us. Bottles of 1888 and 1891 were still alive and resting in his private, traditional cellar.

The winery is very traditional too. He makes Riservas in exceptional years, the recent ones being 2001, 1999, '98,'97,'95 and '90. The prices are commensurate with the quality and brand equity. While the '03 retails for around €68 at the cellar door, the 2001 Riserva sells for € 260. If you think that is expensive, you would gasp for breath, knowing that a few 1945s are still being sold in the market for the princely sum of € 5000 a bottle!

The Rosso from Biondi Santi are expected to last 10-12 years, the Annata (regular Brunello) ages fro 20-30 years whereas the Riserva is normally meant for 70-80 years and sometimes up to 100 years. The winery does re-corking every June at cost.

Earlier this year on June 7 re-corking was done for '55, '64, '69, '71 and '75 which were also topped up. Franco informs that the younger wines needed 9 gms while the older bottles required 25 gms due to constant evaporation. 

This is truly a collector's label. The top bureaucrats, politicians and other modern day maharajas of India are the potential clients for these wines, once they know the luxury status, and brand value of these wines.

Out of the total production, 40% is exported, 30% to the US alone.

Castello Banfi

Bar at Taverna Banfi
The biggest, most powerful and modern winery owned by the American Mariani family owns 2400 hectare of land, huge from the point of view of Montalcino where the average holding of a winery is less than 10 hectares of vineyards.

Taverna Banfi is a restaurant catering to wine tourists. The charming place has a fixed course Menu and a relaxed atmosphere where one can enjoy some of Banfi's wines as well. It is usually crowded, so a reservation is highly recommended.

Of course, the apple of eye of the property is the Michelin started Ristorante Castello Banfi where you can enjoy a 5-course sampler menu for only €150 including wines (€ 90 without wines). A-la-carte is also available with each dish costing around € 30-44. I suggest you should go for the sampler menu for a rounded experience. Unfortunately it is not open for lunch so we had to do with the Taverna.

Even if you do not intend staying at the well-known guest house Il Borgo, it is well worth taking a tour. It offers 14 rooms and suites, varying in size, location and décor, all with carefully selected furnishings and fabrics, classic fixtures and luxuriant amenities.  Each offers a King-sized bed, while the five designated suites are additionally furnished with a Queen-size sofa bed in a separate room. The beds in three of the rooms and one of the suites can be separated to Twin beds. The daily tariff of about €430-550 may appear but the beauty, history and comfort it offers,  justifies the high coast

Conde Nest Traveler listed it as one of the Hottest New Hotels of the World in May 2008.

Wines from this Estate are being imported by Brindco.

Fattoria dei Barbi

Stefano Colombini dei Barbi
Though the farm of Barbi (Barbo means mountain fish- Barbi being the plural) has been in existence since 1352; the present owners Colombini family bought it in 1790. It won its first award in 1892 from the ministry of agriculture for its red Brunello  and has not looked back since.

The winery was being run actively till recently by Francesca Cinelli Colombini who has given the ownership to her son Stefano, a traditional winemaker but with a lot of respect for the technological improvements. (Her daughter Donatella owns the other winery named Donatella Cinelli Colombini).

The winery produces about 700,000 bottles Brusco IGT being a great value for money wine. A full bodied wine with fruity and spicy flavours, it can be enjoyed for daily drinking. Of course, it produces the Rosso, Brunello, and Riserva in special years.

Vigna del Fiore is a single vineyard special Brunello which was a Riserva till 1995. It is produced in very small quantity of maximum of 13000 bottles a year it is made. The 2001 we tasted as a part of vertical tasting of 2001, 1993, '91 and '83 comes from a hot vintage when it was extremely hot during the day and nights were cool. It has light dryness on the palate. The acidity gives lightness to the wine and makes it fresh and age-worthy. It was very concentrated wine with rounded tannins that require food with red meats as counterweight.

The 1993 had a very acidic backbone with complex perfumes and flavour while 1991 was still high on tannins but it would be a great food wine. I personally did not care for the 1983 because of too meaty a bouquet. Its high costs of  €260 did not influence me to convert into a fan.

This winery is a tourists' and wine-lovers' delight. It has a restaurant, museum, free guided tours six times a day followed by complimentary guided tastings and even an agriturismo where one can find rooms to rent- currently undergoing renovation. The renovated Barbi's Tavern next to the winery serves local Montalcino and Tuscan cuisine. Sitting outside, soaking in the view of the valley across is a bonus.

Undoubtedly, a popular winery with the importers and surely will be a darling when it makes its present in the 5-star properties across India.

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