Wines of the Week: Biondi-Santi & Bell Hill

Biondi-Santi 1983 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 98
Bell Hill 2016 Pinot Noir New Zealand   93
by Ian D’Agata

Biondi-Santi 1983 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva       98

Deep red with barely a thin garnet rim: you can tell this bottle (recorked in 2000) was well-cellared. The nose is very deep and multilayered with aromas of ripe but fresh red cherry, sweet spices, aromatic herbs and sandalwood on the nose; this nose is remarkably like that of some old Soldera bottlings I know well, but even more elegant than those wines. Big and full-bodied but also round and mellow on entry, then more austere and steely in the middle, but with the creaminess of the noble tannins that never leaves the scene providing support to the floral, licorice, and balsamic red and dark berry and plum flavours. Remarkably juicy and fruity at 40 years of age, this marvelously intense, concentrated and well-balanced wine is drinking beautifully and is a super-successful Riserva. It exemplifies extremely well why Biondi-Santi Riserva Brunellos fetch the high prices they do: with a wine as good and memorable this one, you won’t regret a single penny. Drinking window: 2023-2040.

Bell Hill 2016 Pinot Noir New Zealand                     93

Bell Hill makes some of New Zealand’s most distinguished Pinot Noir wines that pack both power and refinement. Luminous dark ruby in colour, with purple tinges. Complex and fruity on the nose with outstanding violet lift adding complexity to the deep red fruit aromas. In the mouth it is at once savoury and fruity, with polished flavours of sweet spices, red and dark cherry, and of sandalwood complicated by earth tones and hints of dried herbs. Closes very silky long and high in acid, but harmonious. The 2016 is a beautiful wine of utmost purity, but is also a fairly genteel version of the Bell Hill Pinot Noir(late season harvest-time rains may have had something to do with this), a barrel selection from the entire vineyard (the Shelf, Quarry, Slope (a small portion of it), Roadblock, and Shelf West. The grapes of some of these blocks were vinified with 10-40% whole bunches (Shelf, Shelf West and one Quarry vat). The wine matured in 100% new French oak. Theestate is so-named for its bell-like shape on its southern side; it was first surveyed in 1917 by Charles Trounce who established a lime quarry there that operated until the late 1930s. The vineyard itself was established by Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen. Drinking window: 2023-2033.


Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata