We recently attended an Italian wine seminar at Century Wines featuring wines from Castello Banfi, a family-owned vineyard estate and winery in Montalcino, Italy. Founded by John Mariani, Sr., an American of Italian heritage, the Banfi vineyard estate in the Brunello region of Tuscany consists of about 7,100 acres on gentle western slopes facing the Mediterranean, of which one-third is cultivated in noble vines and the balance in olive groves, wheat, truffles and plums, along with forests filled with deer, wild boar and pheasants. Overlooking the vineyards is the estate’s showpiece, a medieval fortress from the 11th century, now known as Castello Banfi.
Luciano Castiello from Banfi gave an excellent presentation on the history of the Mariani family and their pioneering research on Sangiovese clones to produce a more consistently excellent Brunello di Montalcino. The Banfi estate initially identified 160 different Sangiovese clones and eventually narrowed the number down to 15 complementary clones that are planted in pre-determined proportions in order to yield a consistently outstanding Brunello.
The Century seminar included a tasting of six wines from the Castello Banfi portfolio, accompanied by Italian meats and cheeses:
- 2011 Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio – a delicious white wine made from 100% Pinot Grigio grapes grown right in the Castello Banfi hillside vineyards in Montalcino, Italy. The temperature-controlled fermentation is followed by storage at low temperatures, which leaves a light and natural effervescence.
- 2009 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – an elegant red wine made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the prestigious Chianti Classico DOCG appellation in the heart of Tuscany, blended with small amounts of Canaiolo Nero and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 2 years in Slavonian oak barrels.
- 2007 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – the most famous and expensive red wine from the Montalcino region, required by DOCG regulations to be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and aged for at least 4 years, including at least two years in oak.
- 2010 Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – a fresh, fruity DOC red wine also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in the Castello Banfi estate vineyards in the southern hills of Montalcino, but required to age only one year to enable producers of Brunello to make some money while waiting for their DOCG wine to age.
- 2009 Banfi Belnero – a Super Tuscan red blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with smooth tannins and a long finish, this vintage received a score of 92 points from Wine Spectator. Deep red in color, with aromas of vanilla, coffee and tobacco, and flavors of black cherries and plums.
- 2009 Sartori Amarone della Valpolicella DOC – a robust, dry red wine made from 50% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, grown in vineyards in the hills of Valpolicella DOC, north of Verona, dried on racks for 100 days to concentrate the flavor and aged for 3 years in Slavonian oak casks.