My family and I went on a trip to Montalcino recently and took some time to stop by the famous Castello Banfi Estate for a tour and tasting. I am always surprised at how these unique opportunities stare me in the face here in Italy. I scheduled our appointment on the telephone. We arrived to a friendly greeting and a personal tour of the facility followed by a private tasting in their beautiful Enoteca. I realize we were visiting during the “low season;” however, amazed that we were the only ones around to see and experience this wonderful estate.
Castello Banfi is comprised of about 7,100 acres, 2,400 of which are made up of a “constellation” of single vineyards and the remaining acreage dedicated to olives, fruits, etc. The winery was founded by John Mariani, Sr., an American of Italian heritage, and is still run by the Mariani family today. This estate produces 26 different labels, from Brunello di Montalcino, DOCG Riserva to Moscadello di Montalcino, DOC with a smattering of Brunellos and Super Tuscans in between (they also have an estate in Piedmont that produces 15 different labels). As you can imagine, this estate is massive producing approximately 10 million bottles of wine annually! They have a state-of-the-art facility and are leading the way on the experimental forefront.
I was intrigued by their hybrid tanks that they use for fermenting some of their wines. These unique tanks are stainless steel on the bottom and top with wood in the center making for a very eye-catching impression. For traditional aging, they use Slovenian oak casks and barriques of French and American oak. Always attending to detail, Banfi winemakers personally select the raw wood from the forests of France according to their origin and physical characteristics for their French barriques. They season these barriques at the estate for 3 years (instead of the traditional 2 years). According to Banfi, this gives the wood rounder and more persistent aromas. Coopers (or barrel makers) use an indirect and cooler toasting than usual for about 3x longer than the traditional period of time to produce a more uniform and balanced flavor. Their custom-made barrels are larger (350 L.) than the traditional barrique (225 L.) as it is believed to provide ideal wood surface to volume of wine ratio. Their steel tanks are numerous and vary in size but some are by far the largest I’ve ever seen. Depending on the wine, they use various aging methods and combinations. One method has them combining wine aged in Slovenian casks with wine aged in French barriques, another method has them aging wine in various sizes of oak barrels and then of course, they do steel tank aging and bottle aging.
We finished our tour with a tasting at the Enoteca which is just as beautiful in it’s own right. We were given a generous tasting flight that helped us decide on our “souvenirs.” We walked away with Poggio Alle Mura, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (made from select vineyards producing consistently outstanding Brunello), Summus Sant’Antimo DOC, and BelnerO IGT (both Super Tuscans).
If you would like to try a bottle, or two, or three of Banfi wines, you can shop: WineAccess.com or type “Banfi” in my “Snooth” search window to start shopping.