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Top Brunello producer declassifies 2002 vintage

Tuscan producer Biondi Santi has declared there will be no 2002 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino from the family's historic Tenuta Il Greppo estate.

The estate in southern Tuscany was the first to clone Brunello di Montalcino – in the mid 1800s from Tuscany’s famous Sangiovese grape – and its failure to deliver the prestigious wine this year will lose owners Biondi Santi millions of euros.

‘The poor weather conditions of 2002 have forced us to rule out making a Brunello from Tenuta Il Greppo,’ Jacopo Biondi Santi said. ‘We will instead make a traditional Rosso di Montalcino.’

According to Biondi Santi, the north-east and south-east facing vines of Il Greppo did not reach the degree of ripeness necessary to make a quality Brunello for ageing. ‘It was not an easy decision, especially in financial terms,’ Biondi Santi said. ‘The total production of 60,000 Brunello and 15,000 Riserva wines equates to a €6 million loss.’

Biondi Santi’s second estate, Poggio Salvi, where vines have a more west-facing aspect, will however go ahead with an average production of 70,000 bottles of Brunello. Poggio Salvi Brunello is lower in acidity and tannin than the Il Greppo, and needs less ageing. It is ready to drink at an earlier age.

‘This year really shows up the extraordinary diversity of Montalcino’s 360° microcimate,’ says Stefano Cinelli Colombini of Fattoria dei Barbi, whose estate has a south-facing aspect.

‘We will be making 130,000 to 150,000 bottles of Brunello, which is 50% our normal production. Our single-vineyard Riserva grapes will go into making a top-notch Brunello. We lowered our yields to 39 hectolitres per hectare this year, and have been adopting a cold pre-maceration technique. We have had to compensate for the lack of tannins by vinifying 25% of the grapes in new wood.’

Another leading Brunello producer, Castello Banfi, has also decided to limit production this year. Banfi will not be making any Brunello Riserva Poggio All’Oro, produced only in selected vintages. ‘We have had to make a rigorous selection of the best grapes, which will go into making our Brunello Poggio Alle Mura and Brunello Banfi,’ Banfi’s managing director Enrico Viglierchio said.

Written by Michèle Shah in Italy29 October 2002

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