Revisiting an old friend: Banfi Brunello di Montalcino

The first ever Brunello that I tried was a Brunello 1997 from Banfi.  What striked about this wine was the elegance and finesse that Sangiovese could attain when done properly. This was love at first sight or cupid’s arrow with the wines of Brunello di Montalcino. It was the beginning of a quest that took me down to the discovery of one of the greatest Italian wines. Over the years, my exploration took me to discover  some of the greatest Brunello producers  such as Soldera Biondi Santi and Le Ragnaie. However, I never forgot Banfi.

During my last trip to Montalcino in 2011, a waiter in the landmark restaurant Re di Macchia in Montalcino  told me the following: “ The success of Brunello di Montalcino was possible thanks to the three “B’s”, Biondi Santi, Banfi and Barbi “. I couldn’t agree more. Biondi Santi gave birth to Brunello, but Banfi helped to export it worldwide thanks to the marketing savviness of the Italian-American Mariani brothers in the late 1970s and ‘80s. Barbi’s contribution was to produce large quantities of the wine without sacrificing quality.

Another great contribution of Banfi was their viticultural research on the Sangiovese variety.  Collaborating with the University of Milan, Banfi identified more than 600 sangiovese clones being grown in Tuscany. Years of research narrowed it down to 15 sangiovese clones that were best suited for Montalcino terroir. Banfi passed  their precious findings with the other producers.

Is a Banfi a controversial figure in Italian winemaking?. Yes, they introduced in Montalcino the french barrique and helped internationalize Brunello di Montalcino. However, this is a matter of taste, as there are  winelovers that prefer the classical style versus the modern one.

The wines of the Castello Banfi estate are available in 50 countries around the world and include the single-vineyard reserve Poggio all’Oro and unfiltered cru Poggio alle Mura Brunellos, as well as three proprietary cuvées, Excelsus, Summus and Cum Laude. Other single-vineyard bottles include Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Colvecchio Syrah and San Angelo Pinot Grigio. 

Tasting Notes: 

Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2012. ( SAQ # 10268596, $55.00)

Provenance: estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. The grapes are grown in stony, calcareous and well-structured soil at an altitude of 720 feet above sea level.

Winemaking: the wine is aged for a minimum of 4 years, including 2 years in oak barrels of various sizes, mainly French oak barriques and partly in Slavonian oak casks. 

On the nose, leather, dry roasted red fruits and cigar box nuances. In addition, porcini cream condiment with delicate notes of dry roses, violets and paprika.  On the mouth full body with a mouthwatering acidity. Retronasal reminds me  of menthol notes, cedar and  old balsamic vinegar. Generous and warm reflecting the sunny side of the vintage. Long and racy with firm and rugged tannins. Drink now or cellar it with the next 10-15 years. 

Banfi Poggio Alle Mura 2012. ( SAQ # 00701920, $70.00)

Provenance: A mix of  select vineyards immediately surrounding the medieval Castello Banfi, historically known as Poggio alle Mura (the walled hilltop), in the southern part of Montalcino.

Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel with traditional maceration. Aged for a minimum of four years, including at least 24 months in oak (90% in French barriques and 10% in Slavonian casks) and 24 months bottle aging before release Dense blackberry fruit ( prunes, black cherry) with roasted coffee and cacao. Burning cigar, licorice and crushed rocks. Soft nuances of eucalyptus and mint alike with delicate barnyard nuances. Powerful yet quite balanced with an incredible length. Needs time to integrate the oak but what a showmanship of silky tannins. A very long aftertaste that recalls roasted hazelnuts with dark chocolate. Carafe this wine for 2-3 hours or keep for the next 15 years.

Wines for unexpected visits 

It’s the holidays period and in the followings days us Italians we will be intertwined in doing social visits. You need to be prepared in the case you receive a surprise visit from la zia or that cugino that you have not seen in years.

So you need a small selection of wines under $20 , good quality cold cuts, cheese and bread. With these items, you can whip up an antipasto platter in no time and avoid doing la brutta figura. Unless your guests are very knowledgeable about wine, dont open anything very expensive, because it will go down  the drain. Here are my three top wines that  you should have handy these days in case somebody shows up for a surprise visit.

Pasqua Primitivo Lapaccio 2016 ( SAQ # 00610204, $13.60)

Always a good value year after year. ( the 2015 got 85 points in the Panoram Italia wine guide) Dark cherry, leather, roasted coffee beans and spices. Round, a bit creamy with savoury ripe red fruits and and  wild herbs flavors. A mild sweet taste in the aftertaste that recalls some residual sugar. An honest and decent wine that is a crowd pleaser.

Pasqua Sangiovese Puglia 2016 ( SAQ # 00545772, $10.20)

From the Pasqua family as well, this modest Sangiovese delivers solid quality in every vintage ( the 2015 got 80 points in the Panoram Italia wine guide)for slightly more than $10.Soft in the palate with a humble elegance in the palate. Dark maraschino  cherry notes with a hint of spice with some  blackberries on the finish.

Dogheria Pinot Bianco Rubicone 2016 ( SAQ #  13425972, $14.55)

Something that we don’t see often in the SAQ. A Pinot Bianco from Emilia-Romagna. A nose that recalls granny smith apple with sweet floral and citrus scents. Fresh and fruit forward with an excellent drinkability. 

This will be my last column for 2017. I wish you buon natale e capodanno to you and your loved ones. See you again in 2018. Stay tuned for the 12 Italian wines to have for 2018. 

Note: Samples for review in this post were a courtesy of Charton Hobbs ( Banfi and Pasqua) and Elixirs Vins et Spiritueux ( Dogheria). Information from this article was sourced from the Banfi website and Nicolas Belfrage book: The Finest Wines of Tuscany.

is always a pleasant experience to visit an old friend you have not seen in a long of time. Youmay have parted ways and move up to something else but when you see each other again, it islike time has stopped and your friendship has not been interrupted by the years gone by..This isexactly how I felt when I retasted some of the Banfi Brunellos from 2012.The first ever Brunello that I tried was a Brunello 1997 from Banfi. What striked about this winewas the elegance and finesse that Sangiovese could attain when done properly. This was loveat first sight or cupid’s arrow with the wines of Brunello di Montalcino.

It was the beginning of aquest that took me down to the discovery of one of the greatest Italian wines. Over the years,my exploration took me to discover some of the greatest Brunello producers such as SolderaBiondi Santi and Le Ragnaie. However, I never forgot Banfi.During my last trip to Montalcino in 2011, a waiter in the landmark restaurant Re di Macchia inMontalcino told me the following: “The success of Brunello di Montalcino was possible thanksto the three “B’s”, Biondi Santi, Banfi and Barbi “.

I couldn’t agree more. Biondi Santi gave birthto Brunello, but Banfi helped to export it worldwide thanks to the marketing savviness of theItalian-American Mariani brothers in the late 1970s and ‘80s. Barbi’s contribution was to producelarge quantities of the wine without sacrificing quality.Another great contribution of Banfi was their viticultural research on the Sangiovese variety.Collaborating with the University of Milan, Banfi identified more than 600 sangiovese clonesbeing grown in Tuscany.

Years of research narrowed it down to 15 sangiovese clones that werebest suited for Montalcino terroir. Banfi passed their precious findings with the other producers.Is a Banfi a controversial figure in Italian winemaking? Yes, they introduced in Montalcino thefrench barrique and helped internationalize Brunello di Montalcino. However, this is a matter oftaste, as there are winelovers that prefer the classical style versus the modern one.The wines of the Castello Banfi estate are available in 50 countries around the world andinclude the single-vineyard reserve Poggio all’Oro and unfiltered cru Poggio alle Mura Brunellos,as well as three proprietary cuvées, Excelsus, Summus and Cum Laude. Other single-vineyardbottles include Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Colvecchio Syrah and San Angelo Pinot Grigio.Tasting Notes:Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2012. ( SAQ # 10268596, $55.00)
Provenance: estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. The grapes are grown instony, calcareous and well-structured soil at an altitude of 720 feet above sea level.

Winemaking: the wine is aged for a minimum of 4 years, including 2 years in oak barrels ofvarious sizes, mainly French oak barriques and partly in Slavonian oak casks.On the nose, leather, dry roasted red fruits and cigar box nuances. In addition, porcini creamcondiment with delicate notes of dry roses, violets and paprika. On the mouth full body with amouthwatering acidity. Retronasal reminds me of menthol notes, cedar and old balsamicvinegar.

Generous and warm reflecting the sunny side of the vintage. Long and racy with firmand rugged tannins. Drink now or cellar it with the next 10-15 years.Banfi Poggio Alle Mura 2012. ( SAQ # 00701920, $70.00)Provenance: A mix of select vineyards immediately surrounding the medieval Castello Banfi,historically known as Poggio alle Mura (the walled hilltop), in the southern part of Montalcino.Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel with traditional maceration. Aged for a minimum offour years, including at least 24 months in oak (90% in French barriques and 10% in Slavoniancasks) and 24 months bottle aging before releaseDense blackberry fruit ( prunes, black cherry) with roasted coffee and cacao. Burning cigar,licorice and crushed rocks. Soft nuances of eucalyptus and mint alike with delicate barnyardnuances. Powerful yet quite balanced with an incredible length.

Needs time to integrate the oakbut what a showmanship of silky tannins. A very long aftertaste that recalls roasted hazelnutswith dark chocolate. Carafe this wine for 2-3 hours or keep for the next 15 years.Wines for unexpected visits.It’s the holidays period and in the followings days us Italians we will be intertwined in doingsocial visits. You need to be prepared in the case you receive a surprise visit from la zia or thatcugino that you have not seen in years.So you need a small selection of wines under $20 , good quality cold cuts, cheese and bread.With these items, you can whip up an antipasto platter in no time and avoid doing la bruttafigura. Unless your guests are very knowledgeable about wine, dont open anything veryexpensive, because it will go down the drain. Here are my three top wines that you shouldhave handy these days in case somebody shows up for a surprise visit.Pasqua Primitivo Lapaccio 2016. ( SAQ # 00610204, $13.60)Always a good value year after year. ( the 2015 got 85 points in the Panoram Italia wine guide)Dark cherry, leather, roasted coffee beans and spices. Round, a bit creamy with savoury ripered fruits and and wild herbs flavors. A mild sweet taste in the aftertaste that recalls someresidual sugar. An honest and decent wine that is a crowd pleaser.
Pasqua Sangiovese Puglia 2016. ( SAQ # 00545772, $10.20)From the Pasqua family as well, this modest Sangiovese delivers solid quality in every vintage (the 2015 got 80 points in the Panoram Italia wine guide)for slightly more than $10.Soft in thepalate with a humble elegance in the palate. Dark maraschino cherry notes with a hint of spicewith some blackberries on the finish.Dogheria Pinot Bianco Rubicone 2016. ( SAQ # 13425972, $14.55)Something that we don’t see often in the SAQ. A Pinot Bianco from Emilia-Romagna. A nosethat recalls granny smith apple with sweet floral and citrus scents. Fresh and fruit forward withan excellent drinkability.This will be my last column for 2017. I wish you buon natale e capodanno to you and your lovedones. See you again in 2018. Stay tuned for the 12 Italian wines to have for 2018.Note: Samples for review in this post were a courtesy of Charton Hobbs ( Banfi andPasqua) and Elixirs Vins et Spiritueux ( Dogheria). Information from this article wassourced from the Banfi website and Nicolas Belfrage book: The Finest Wines of Tuscany.

written by Marco Giovanetti