October 2006

Wine Talk - Castello Banfi

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

Since October has arrived and the weather is starting to cool off, it is time to start thinking about red wines. So, let’s go to Tuscany, specifically Montalcino, and visit the Banfi estate where they produce some exquisite Italian reds.

To many, it may seem as if Banfi has been on the wine scene forever, but it actually has only been about 20 years. Successful American importers, John and Harry Mariani, purchased 4,500 acres and then the adjacent estate of 2,600 acres, and finally the 11th century castle which was renamed Castello Banfi. The property has an Enoteca (tasting room), a Glass Museum and two restaurants, La Taverna (for lunch) and Il Ristorante (for dinner).
The Banfi vineyards are planted with red and white varietals, but let us focus on some of their reds, since fall is here. Let’s begin with the Centine. It is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. This wine is bright ruby-red with hints of spice on the nose. It is soft, with a gentle mouth feel, and has intense flavors of red berries and plums. The wine pairs well with beef, wild game and pastas, and is a perfect bottle for quick get-togethers with friends.

Banfi has two different Chiantis: the Chianti Classico and the Chianti Classico Riserva. The Chianti Classico showcases bouquets of wild berries and violets with a taste of cherries and spice. This wine pairs well with grilled meats and red-sauce pastas. The Classico Riserva is different from the Classico because it spends more time aging in the barrel. It is round, spicy and carries an elegant finish to accompany the scents of vanilla, black licorice and chocolate. The Riserva makes an excellent gift with a low price tag it is a bargain for such a rich wine.

Now on to Brunello. Most Brunellos are made with the grape Sangiovese Grosso, which happens to be a clone of the traditional Sangiovese grape used in making Chianti. The entry level is known as the Brunello di Montalcino and is rich and velvety with sensations of licorice, spice and black cherries. A step up would be the Poggio alla Mura Grand Cru, at a slightly higher cost. The grapes from this wine are chosen from two select vineyards, and the wine ages longer than the Brunello di Montalcino. The flavor profile has essence of plum, blackberries and raspberry jam, with heavier tannins to allow for aging.

The Poggio all’Oro Riserva is the grandest of all Brunellos out of the Casteloo Banfi. The grapes are hand-selected from one vineyard,“Poggio all’Oro,” which translates as “Hill of Gold.” The wine is meant to age for several years before opening, which is why there are more tannins than in any of the others. There are hints of cherry and chocolate with a smooth elegant finish. All three of these Brunellos would pair well with lamb, beef, veal and heavier pasta dishes.

Banfi also has a Rosso di Montalcino, which is the wine made from the leftover grapes not used in its Brunellos. It is a great value and would also make a wonderful gift for any wine lover. The wine is gentle, yet full-bodied with abundant tastes of fresh berries and plum. It also pairs well with most foods, especially poultry and duck.

If you don’t see yourself in Tuscany in the near future, you can experience a taste of Tuscany by visiting Antonio’s in the Village at Wexford. The wine list includes all of these Banfi selections, so pop open a bottle with a Tuscan prime steak, rack of lamb, or even the veal chops for a fabulous taste sensation.

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