Tuesday, February 24, 2015

History of Banfi with Flight of Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 1995-2010

Last week I attended an event at one of my local favorite Italian restaurants, the Tuscan Kitchen, that hosted an event with Banfi Vintners, the importing company of the Banfi brand from Tuscany.  Co-CEO, Cristiani Mariani May, shared the upcoming 2010 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino release along with a comparison of older vintages. Cristina is 3rd generation of the Banfi family. As some may say she lives the life residing in Long Island and traveling often to Tuscany with years of tradition of the Banfi brand behind her as part of her family history.

Banfi Vintners with Cristina Mariani May
Cristina Mariani May, Joe Comforti of Tuscan Kitchen and myself
Banfi History
Banfi was established in the 19th century by Cristina's great great aunt Teodolinda Banfi. Teodolinda was the first woman to live amongst the Vatican walls and was head of the household of Pope Pius XI. Cristina's father, John Mariani, grew up actually in Greenwich Village, NY, but his parents around the age of 10 years old sent him to Italy to be raised by his aunt until he was about 20 years old. Starting in 1919, John and his brother, Harry, started their own business where they served as negociants. They partnered with enologist, Ezio Rivella, whom had served as 2 times President of the DOC committee and also being the 1st non-Frenchman to do so. Their vision was to elevate the standards of winemaking in Italy at a time when the image of chianti was bottled in the fiascos and quantity reigned over quality.

Banfi wine estate Tuscany
Banfi Wine Estate - Property of Jolisoleil

From being a negociant in his career, Cristina's father John had an unbelievable wine cellar of first growths from the 60's and 70's, but he could never found the right occasion to drink them. Cristina was quite comical in the fact that it took her having the first grandchild and naming it after her father to get him to start opening bottles and then the wine was flowing.

Banfi Winery
The 7,100 acres of Banfi's vineyards are located in the town of Montalcino, in the south western part of Tuscany. The Banfi winery is situated 900-1100 feet above sea level near the mountains, Monte Amiata and Apennines, where they are blocked from the northernly winds as well as the scrirocco winds of Africa as they are only 20 miles from the coast. Montalcino is known for producing some of the top wines of Italy including Brunello di Montalcino. Cristina shared with us how much the Montalcino area has developed so much over the years that in 1967 there were 41 members with 175 acres producing Brunello in the area and as of 2014 there are now 209 members with 5,189 acres.

2013 Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio
Banfi 2013 San Angelo Pinot Grigio
An interesting discovery unveiled in the Banfi vineyards was a 5 million year old whale fossil completely intact 30 feet in length. This shows the sea bed, marine sediments and fossils that provide nutrients and minerals to the soils made of limestone and calcium producing distinct wines.

The wine cellars of the Banfi estate have interesting fermentation tanks that are a hybrid of stainless steel and oak tanks.  The estate wines produced are aged in wood that is hand selected and seasoned by Banfi themselves for 2-3 years and all other wines that utilize wood are purchased by Italian producer, Gamba.

Banfi Research Project
Banfi is a winery that had conducted extensive research with other scholars for 30 years on the 650 clones that exist for sangiovese resulting in the optimal clonal selection for the production of Brunello di Montalcino. The book published, “Pursuit of Excellence” also discusses their winemaking practices. Banfi was the 1st winery to receive triple ISO sustainability.

Pursuit of Excellence with Banfi
Pursuit of Excellence - Property of Jolisoleil

Vintages of Banfi Wines
According to Cristina, the highly acclaimed vintages from Brunello di Montalcino were the '90, '97, '04, '06, 07, and lastly the '10. Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media stated that the “2010 will go down as one of the great all-time vintages in Tuscany...Stylistically, the 2010s remind me of the 2004s, but with more fruit and overall depth. The finest wines should age gracefully for years, and in some cases, decades.” The 2010 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator and the 2010 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura rated 97 points by Wine Spectator.

Banfi Brunello di Montalcino
Flight of Banfi Brunello di Montalcino
Below you'll find the wines from the tasting with some of my notes. As you'll see the 2004 Banfi Poggio alla Mura Brunello di Montalcino was the highlight for myself, but I enjoyed the fruit on the upcoming release of the 2010 and I look forward to experiencing this wine in years to come.

2010 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino

The 2010 vintage had a cool spring with a relatively stable summer that cooled down around harvest. The 2010 was elegant and smooth with integrated tannins and good fleshy red fruits of cherry and plum and toastiness. It reminded me of roasted marshmallows. It was aged 2 years 50% in large slavonian oak casks and 50% French oak barrique. This wine is being released to the market in March.

2009 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino

The 2009 climate conditions started with abundant rainfall in the spring that lasted until mid-July with cooler temperatures than normal followed by dry conditions up through harvest. This wine in comparison to the 2010 had more firm tannins, bright cherry and tobacco notes along with good acidity with the 2010 showing riper fruit. It was aged 2 years 50% in large slavonian oak casks and 50% French oak barrique.

Castello Banfi in Montalcino
Property of Randy OHC

The next couple wines are labeled with the Poggio Alle Mura name, meaning “walled hilltop”. This is what Castello Banfi was initially known as back in the 13th century. Serving as a fortress during time of attack and war it was almost destroyed in WWII, but was fully restored in the 20th century by the Banfi family.

2006 Banfi Poggio Alla Mura Brunello di Montalcino

2006 provided adequate rainfall in the spring followed by a hot summer with a good exchange of temps between day and night and a warm harvest. This wine has a beautiful bouquet on the nose with deeper cherry and vanilla. A round, good structured wine with supple tannins. This was barrel aged 2 years in 10% slavonian oak casks and 90% in French oak barriques.

2004 Banfi Poggio Alla Mura Brunello di Montalcino

Definitely the highlight for me and many others of the group for the evening. An overall complex wine with good structure, fruit with a little spice. An overall elegant and silky wine showing still a good acidic backbone. This was barrel aged 2 years in 10% slavonian oak casks and 90% in French oak barriques.

1995 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino

The conditions were typical of the spring and summer with adequate rainfall and temps. August had more rainfall than normal and lower temps, but balanced out during harvest. It's hard to believe that this wine is already 20 years old. A very different experience from the previous vintages mentioned. It was overall a softer and silky wine with sweeter tannins with earthiness and hints of mushrooms. I thought it was drinking well now. The wine was aged 2.5 years in slavonian oak casks. 

If you'd love to experience Tuscany for yourself please inquire with me at vinotravels @ hotmail dot com.

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