Joining the words Banfi with Chianti Classico is a surefire way to get excellence, as evidenced in a glass of the 2006 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva.

In 1919, John Mariani founded Banfi in New York City’s Little Italy. Today, his grand-children, James Mariani and Christina Mariani-May, oversee Castello Banfiin Montalcino, vineyards in Chianti Classico, cellars in Piedmont, and are importers and distributors of quality wines from Italy, Chile and Argentina.

While famed for their Brunello di Montalcino and super-Tuscan wines Summus, Excelsus, and Cum Laude, Banfi’s Chianti Classico is equally well-made and more affordable.

Banfi’s grapes come from vineyards in Greve and Castellina, two prime areas in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone. The 2006 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva is made from a blend of 80-percent sangiovese and 10-percent each canaiolo nero and cabernet sauvignon, using the traditional method of aging the wine for one year in large Slavonian oak casks. Employing this technique preserves the wine’s cherry color and appealing aromas of roses, cherries and leather, and allows sangiovese’s natural acidity to balance the ripe black cherry fruit flavor that pleases the palate.

During the last two decades, a number of Chianti Classico producers have switched from large Slavonian oak casks to new French oak barrels. The result has been that Chianti Classico tastes like so many other wines with its slick texture and vanilla-bean/creme brulee flavor. And some have even deviated further by using up to 20-percent cabernet sauvignon in the wine, the maximum under current regulations, which overwhelms sangiovese and generates a blackish-colored wine with little historical connection to Chianti Classico. Banfi will not lead you down this dark road with its 2006 Chianti Classico riserva; instead it offers the best qualities from the superb 2006 vintage.

Try a glass with a classic Tuscan dish of a grilled steak with an arugula salad; a Florentine dish of pork roasted or grilled with sauteed spinach; or pasta tossed with white beans, fresh diced tomatoes, and Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. You’ll see why Banfi and Chianti Classico is a good marriage.

The 2006 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva retails for approximately $22.