It’s summer in Texas and it is still really hot. Need I say more. Mostly cloistered in my air conditioned enclave with visions of cool Fall weather dancing in my head, I’m featuring another Texas red wine of Summer 2023 – this one is a Texas-grown, wild fermented, Brunello-clone Sangiovese. Just writing this string of words says, it could be something really special.
Saint Tryphon Farm & Vineyards 2020 Texas High Plains Sangiovese
First let me say, sitting here looking at the unopened bottle of this wine, it has a grand presence. The heavy-format bottle accented with it rust red label topped with a Saint Tryphon worthy bird-in-hand image conveys gravitas, worthy to stand on any dinner table.
Out of the bottle and in the glass, this Sangiovese quickly shows its color and medium-plus density, and then releases its red cherry, dusty earth, green herbs and toasted oak aromas. It’s complex and I haven’t even tasted it yet. On the palate it is crisp and lively, with clean acidity and flavors of dried red cherry, cola and a sauté of wild mushrooms.
Saint Tryphon and the Bird-in-Hand Image
Why is the bird-in-hand image on the label particularly noteworthy? Well, in Russia, Saint Tryphon is venerated as the patron of birds. He is often shown in Russian icons (and this wineries labels) holding a bird in his hand, a reference to a miracle attributed to the saint’s prayers. Furthermore, Saint Tryphon is greatly venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which he is also the patron saint of gardeners and winegrowers.
The “Brunello Backstory” on this Sangiovese
Silouan Branford owner and winemaker at Saint Tryphon says, “2020 was our first vintage of Sangiovese. 100% Sangiovese (Brunello-clone) from Neal Newsom’s vineyard in the Texas High Plains. We employed our normal Tryphon techniques of wild-fermentation, and thrice daily punch-downs. The barrel regime consisting of mostly neutral barrique, but one very special barrel was new French oak.”
“The wine is supple and fresh, with red plum and dusty cherry lead the charge, and a pleasant floral character and smooth, lively tannins, too. I was aiming for this wine to fall somewhere between a Brunello di Montalcino and a DOCG Chianti. It is broad, but not too big, embracing vivacity over power.”
The story of this wine goes even farther back. According to Silouan, the early freeze in the Fall of October 2019 affected some of his standard vineyard growers in 2020, thus he had to try something new and he began this Sangiovese project. Silouan’s “Year of Sangiovese” also included his Saint Tryphon “NORTH/SOUTH” bottling, a blend of 50% Sangiovese from Newsom Vineyards, and 50% Aglianico from the Texas Hill Country (Uplift Vineyard).
Doing the Deep Drive – Why is Brunello-clone Sangiovese So Special?
As Patricia Thompson, a certified Tuscan Wine Master, writes, “Sangiovese turns out to be a ‘population’ or family of highly adaptive grapes. There are two biotypes: Tuscan and Romagnan (from Emilia Romagna). Both contain many clones, i.e., plants that are genetically different and behave differently. There are a total of 70 clones or types of Sangiovese!”
The Brunello clone of the Italian Sangiovese was first cultivated in the 19th century by Ferrucio Biondi Santi, and today Biondi Santi Brunellos are some of the greatest expressions of Tuscan Sangiovese. They are big, intense, complex and often expensive, mostly obtainable for $100 to over $200 a bottle. These wines also have longevity when kept under the right conditions.
This Wine is Worth its Heritage
It can be hard to find Sangiovese grown in the USA made from a verified Brunello clone, but here from Saint Tryphon via Newsom Vineyards, we’ve got one. Neal Newsom was a savior for Silouan in 2020 with his harvest of Brunello-clone Sangiovese. In this wine, we truly have a Sangiovese worthy of its Brunello-clone heritage, and at a very nice price, too. Click here to check it out.