The 2007 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is an excellent wine from an outstanding vintage in a wine area that it was a major contributor to its modern style.
In 1977, Long Island brothers Harry and John Mariani purchased 4,500 acres in Tuscany’s Montalcino and introduced American entrepreneurial energy to this ancient and obscure Tuscan wine town.
During the next 30 years, Banfi planted vineyards, purchased thousands of additional acres, developed a wine research center, experimented with numerous clones of the sangiovese grape, created unique fermentation tanks and barrels, divided its vineyard into multiple sections for specific sangiovese clones, opened a hospitality center, built a first-class hotel, and earned a Michelin Guide star for its restaurant.
In the 1990s John Mariani’s daughter, Christina Mariani-May, and Harry’s son, James, joined Banfi. A decade later, their fathers handed these two business-schooled cousins the reins, and they continue to drive Banfi in the same fast lane. And while the fathers now sit in the backseat, they are not silent passengers.
From all their efforts, a series of prestigious red wines flow from Castello Banfi, including two single-vineyard Brunellos di Montalcino, Poggio Alle Mura and Poggio all’Oro; and the Super-Tuscan blends Excelsus, Summus, and Cum Laude, made from variations of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.
But the core of Castello Banfi is the appellation wine, Brunello di Montalcino.
When the Marianis decided to enter Montalcino, brunello (the local name for the sangiovese grape) was unknown in America, and not widely respected anywhere. It was a tannic red wine that required four years of barrel aging, and took additional years of bottle aging for it to soften to the point of drinkability. In the late 1990s, Italian wine authorities modified the aging to a minimum of two years in barrel and two years in bottle.
The 2007 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino spends its two years in small, medium and large barrels, equally divided among French and traditional Slavonian oak. The grapes are selected sangiovese clones from Banfi’s decades-long research, and the wine is fermented in its unique stainless-steel top and wood bottom fermentation tanks. The ripe fruit from the outstanding 2007 vintage billows with black fruit aromas and deposits an array of flavors from blackberry to cherry to beef on your palate.
Yesteryear’s aggressive tannins are a historical memory when the wine rolls around your mouth. In their place are round, soft tannins supporting a cornucopia of fruit developed under a Tuscan sun that lasted through a perfect fall harvest.
To date, our winter has been mild, but it is still the perfect time for a classic Tuscan dish of steak with white beans and a glass of the delicious 2007 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino. And be sure to add some bottles to your cellar as 2007 is a first-rate vintage with a 20-year lifespan.
Because of the Marianis’ efforts, Brunello di Montalcino is recognized by American wine consumers as one of Italy’s great red wines. And they opened the eyes of many Italians, too.
The 2007 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino retails for about $70.
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