Category Archives: Banfi

Visiting Castello Banfi

 

As part of the “Hello Grappa” press trip, we visited Castello Banfi in Tuscany. Michele and I have not been there in a number of years and were looking forward to our visit.

The Banfi estate is located at the junction of the Orice and Ombrone rivers extending across the southern slope of the township of Montalcino across 7,100 acres of land. One third of the property is vines and the rest is shared between olive groves, wheat fields, truffles, forests and scrubs.

Lorella Carres, the P.R. and communications manager, welcomed us.

Gianni explains his new vine training system

We went for a tour of the vineyards where we meet Gianni Savelli,, the chief agronomist, who is developing a new method for training the vines.

On the tour of the winery we were joined by the cellar master Gabriele Pazzaglia and the legendary John Mariani, Chairman Emertus of Banfi. Mr. Mariani told us about the history of the Castello Banfi Estate and other interesting stories about the workings of what he referred to as a “state of the art winery” always upgrading and improving.

Mr. Mariani showed us the temperature controlled horizontal hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks where fermentation takes place. Here these tanks allow for optimal temperature controlled fermentation with the end result of wines that are less astringent, less bitter and softer.  He said the wines are unfiltered and bottled under nitrogen, reducing sulfites and histamines for a more pure and natural wine.

At the end of the tour we went to the cellar where Gabriele led us in a tasting of four Brunellos.

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013 100% Sangiovese. The soil has a yellowish brown color, calcareous sandy top spil and many round stones. There is a meticulous grape selection with a yield not exceeding 6 metric tons. This is followed by vinification in temperature controlled Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 10 to 12 days. The wine ages for two years in different size French oak barrels, 350-liter barriques and 60 and 120 hl barrels. The wine remains in bottle for 8 to 10 months before release, which in the 5th year after the harvest. This is a classic Brunello, a full and intense wine, with red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of spice, licorice and a touch of vanilla. The first vintage was in 1978.

Poggio Alle Mura  Brunello di Montalcino-DOCG 2013 This wine has the same profile as the Riserva below, the main difference is that it is released sooner and the Riserva is a “bigger” wine. First vintage 1997.

Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012 100% Sangiovese from a combination of estate selected clones. The vineyard slopes at 210/220 slopes down from the Poggio alle Mura (the walled hilltop) Castle. The vines were planted in 1992.  The soil is yellowish in color, sandy topsoil, coarse, calcareous and sea sediment originating from the Pliocene age. There is an abundance of round rocks. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 4,200 vines per hectare.

The harvest is followed by a maceration of 12 to 13 days. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in temperature controlled hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks. About 90% of the wine is aged in French oak barriques manufactured according to Banfi’s specifications. The remaining 10% is aged in Slavonian oak casks. The wine remains in the bottle for 12 months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of plum, cherry and blackberries with notes of chocolate and vanilla. First vintage 1997.

Poggio All’Oro Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2012 100% Sangiovese. The Poggio All’Oro Vineyard is in the southern slopes of Montalcino at 250 meters and there are 2,100 plants per hectare. There is skin contact for 12 to 14 days. The wine is aged in barriques for 30 months and 12 to 18 months in bottle before release. This is an intense wine, fruity and spicy with tobacco and chocolate notes. This wine is only produced in excellent vintages. First vintage 1985.

Gabriele said in 2013 the growing cycle began with a significant delay with some rain during the spring. Cooler temperatures in June were below normal. Summer nights were cooler contributing to the improvement of the quality of the grapes. From the end of September, rainfall was abundant causing problems during the ripening without affecting the vineyards.

2012 There was dry weather in April and May. There were cooler temperatures in June with lack of rain. In Mid August a sudden heat wave raised temperatures to over 40C (104F) through the end of the month. A sun drenched September with normal temperatures allowed for a good harvest. He said 2012 was a lot like the 2003 vintage.

Then we tasted Brunello barrel samples of the 2016 and 2017 vintages from 3 different vineyards:  Poggione, Santa Costanza and Marrucheto.

Gabriele said they have spent over 20 years trying to find the perfect clones for their Brunello .

Tasting the barrel samples and hearing the explanations from Gabriele was very interesting and informative.  He said that 2017 was a difficult year hot and dry with little variation between night and day temperatures and the harvest was 10 days earlier than normal.

He also said that 2016 difficult vintage but with different problems than 2017

At lunch we sat with John Mariani and his wife and Mr. Mariani spoke about  the wines we would have with lunch and again told us very interesting stories about the estate.  He  said this part of Tuscany was covered by the ocean and in the vineyards paleontologists recently unearthed a great discovery, a 5 million year old whale fossil completely in intact.

Vermentino “La Pettegola” Toscana 2017 IGT made from 100% Vermentino. Following a very soft pressing, fermentation takes place for about 13 to 16 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine has hints if citrus fruit and peach and a touch of sage with good acidity. Mr. Mariani was very proud of this latest addition to the Banfi portfolio.

With the Vermentino we had creamy salt cod with liquid panzanella and pumpkin flower chips

Belnero 2014 Toscana IGT 100% Sangiovese. The soil is stony, calcareous and well structured. Fermented in patented temperature-controlled French oak and aged for an additional 14 months. The wine is unfiltered. It is nitrogen bottled to allow the wine to retain its youthful character thus minimizing the use of sulfites. The wine has hints of cherry and prunes with a touch of vanilla, tobacco and coffee.

With the Belnero we had Duck ravioli on peas cream with truffle shavings.


Poggio All’Oro Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 Having a chance to drink this wine with food made a big difference in my enjoyment of the wine. All of the Brunellos need much more time to develop and they will age for many years.

Brunello di Montalcino 2010 DOCG  2010.  For me this was the wine of the lunch; it was more forward than the other wines and great for drinking right now.

With the Brunellos we had the Beef tagliata with arugula salad and grilled vegetables.

Poggio Alle Mura 2013 DOCG. This is a big wine that will age for many years.

With dessert we had the Brachetto d’Acqui “Rosa Regale” Red sparkling wine produced with Brachetto grapes grown in and around the town of Acqui. The soil is rocky, calcareous with tufaceous marl. Fermentation is with brief skin contact and storage at 32F. Refermentation in stainless steel vats, followed immediately by bottling. This is an aromatic wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and rose petals and good acidity.

With the Brachetto we had  strawberry chantilly cream tart with yogurt ice cream.

What is the perfect way to end the meal? With Grappa of course.  Gabriele Pazzaglia, the cellar master, led us in a tasting of four grappas.  Gaberiele said that all grappa is distilled in the same way.

Grappa Del Castello The pomace comes from selected Banfi vineyards in the Southern hills of Montalcino.(Sangiovese) The soil here is olive brown in color with very calcareous topsoil. This is a traditionally-made grappa with a hint of fruit.

Grappa di Brunello made from the pomace of Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese) very traditional grappa.

Grappa di Brunello “Torre” made from the pomace of Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese). This is an intense grappa with a hint of wild berries and sour cherries on the finish.

Poggio Alla Mura- Grappa di Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva made from Sangiovese grapes from the vineyards around the historic Poggio alle Mura Castle. After being distilled the grappa is aged in Slovonian oak casks for 18 months. It has fruity notes with a hint of vanilla, wood and spice with a touch of honey in the finish.

It was a wonderful visit and I wish I could have spent more time here as there was just so much to see and some much information to absorb.

That night walking around the town of Montalcino I ran into Bill Whiting Director of Wine Education for Banfi and a member of the  Banfi “family”. I have known Bill for a long time and he was going to visit Castello Banfi with a group of retailers the next day.  What a lucky group to enjoy this beautiful place, wonderful people and great products!

 

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The Wine Media Guild Sicily Tasting: The Red Wines

At the Wine Media Guild’s recent tasting and lunch at Felidia Restaurant, we tasted 12 red wines from Sicily ranging in price from $12.99 to $159.99 for the Santa.Ne from Palari, the only wine in the group not made from native grapes.

Alessandro Dellascenza

Alessandro Dellascenza

Alessandro Dellasenza from Cru Artisan Wines/Banfi spoke the wines of Palari as well as the other wines he presented. I spoke about the remaining wines.

The Red Wines of Sicily

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Frappato 2013 DOC Paterno di Vittoria, 100% Frappato Golden Ram Imports NYC, David Rosengarten Selections, $18. Maceration is for four days with skin contact and temperature controlled fermentation. The wine spends one month in steel and one month in bottle before release. This is a well-balanced, aromatic wine with hints of cherry and pomegranate.IMG_0198

Frappato 2014 Planeta, 100% Frappato Palm Bay $21.99 De-stemming followed by 12 days maceration, after racking, malolactic in stainless steel. The wine should be drunk 3 years from the vintage. This is light bodied aromatic wine with hints of spice and red fruit.IMG_0199

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 DOCG Planeta, Nero d’ Avola 60% Frappato 40% Palm Bay $ 23.99. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed, extraction on the skins and 8 days of maceration. After racking, malolactic fermentation takes place in steel tanks. This is a fruity wine with hints of strawberries, cherries and figs with a long finish.IMG_0201

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2012 DOCG Paterno di Vittoria 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, Golden Ram Imports NYC $25. Vinified in stainless steel for 15 days. The wine is aged for 6 months is stainless steel, 6 months in barriques and 6 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with good red berry flavors and aromas with a long finish and nice aftertaste.IMG_0206

Nero D’Avola 2014 Cusumano 100% Nero d’Avola Tony di Dio Selections $12.99. Production zone San Giacomo, Butera. The vines are 14 years old and the exposure south, southeast. Training system is espalier and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. This is a fruity easy drinking wine and a great value.IMG_0207

Nero d’Avola Riserva Sicilia “Don Antonio” 2011 Morgante 100% Nero d’Avola Winebow $42. The vines grow in white calcareous soils with small amounts of clay at 500/550 meters. Harvest takes place at the end of September. Vinification is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with 20 days skin contact. Malolacatic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged for 12 months in new French Allier and Troncais 225 liter barriques, followed by 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, raspberry and violets with a touch of leather and liquorice.IMG_0208

 Rosso del Conte Contea di Sclafani DOC 2010 Tasca d’ Almerita Nero d’Avola 63% and 37% other red grapes Winebow $70 Production area Palermo, Sicily. The soil is fine clay slightly calcareous and the vineyard was planted in 2002. It is at 650 meters with a south-west exposure. The training system is bush and espalier, with short spur pruning. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest is in the beginning of October. Traditional red wine fermentation in stainless steel and maceration for 20 days. The wine is aged for 18 months in new French oak, Allier and Troncais 225 liter barriques and ten 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherries and herbs with a touch of vanilla and tobacco.IMG_0209

Etna Rosso “Martinella” 2010 DOP Vivera (the winery is 100% certified organic) 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio Montcalm $39.99 Located in Linguaglossa, Contrada Matinell on the northern-eastern slope of Mont Etna. The vineyard was planted in 2003 at 600 meters, volcanic soil with abundant rounded stones. Vertical trellis, spur pruned cordon and there are 5,500 plants per hectare. The grapes are carefully selected and hand picked the first week of October. Cold maceration is followed by fermentation at controlled temperatures for 10 days. The wine is racked and aged in 225 French barriques for about one year. It is refined in bottle for another 12 months before release. The wine hints of sweet red fruit and a note of bitter chocolate.IMG_0210

  Etna Rosso “Rovittello” 2013 DOC 100% Nerello Mascalese Benanti Tradizione Imports $20 The countryside of Rovittello, on the north side of Mt. Etna in the commune of Castiglione di Sicilia. It is a single vineyard grown as alberello (free standing bush) at 750 meters. The soil is sandy, volcanic and very rich in minerals. The vines are 80 years old and there are 9,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the second week of October and the grapes are late ripening. Traditional vinification takes place, with long maceration of the must with the skins. After malolatic fermentation, the wine matures in small casks of 225 liters for more than one year and 8 to 10 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit and a touch of vanilla.IMG_0211

Rosso del Soprano (the red from the heights) 2011 Palari Cru Artisan Wines-Banfi $58.99 Made from the same grapes as the Faro below. The wine is aged in one-year barrels of Troncais and Allier oak. It is bottled unfiltered and rests for another year until release. The wine has hints of red berries and spice.IMG_0212

Faro (lighthouse) 2009 DOC Palari Cru Artisan Wines- Banfi $99.99 made from 60% Nerello Mascalese, 1% Cor’e Palumba, 2% Jacche 15% Nocera, 20% Nerello Cappuccio and 2% Acitana. The grapes are grown in vineyards located in Santo Stefano Briga (Messina), in sandy soil. After a soft pressing and fermentation with native yeasts in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged in new barrels of Troncais and Allier oak for at least 12 months. The wine is bottled unfiltered and remains in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a complex wine with hints of ripe red fruit, spice, jasmine and a touch of vanilla.IMG_0213

Santa.Ne 2008 Palari Cru Artisan Wines-Banfi $159.99 Made from 100% “A Francisa.” Alessandro explained that over 150 years ago the farmers found a unusually clay-rich plot of land and decided to plant grapes from France. Over the years the vines adapted to the land and the farmers no loner remembered what was planted there. So in dialect they called it “A Francisa”–the grapes from France. It is a single vineyard in the heights of Santo Stefano Briga (Messina). Following the pressing of the grapes and fermentation with native yeasts at controlled temperature the wine rests for 24 months in barrels of Troncais oak and at least 2 years more in bottle unfiltered 2 years before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, tobacco, leather and spice with a touch of vanilla.

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Filed under Banfi, Benanti Winery, Cerasuolo di Vittorio, Cusumano winery, Don Antonio, Faro, Frappato, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Nero d'Avola, Palari, Planeta, Rosso Del Conte, Rosso del Soprano, Santa.Ne, Uncategorized, Vivera

$20 and Under for Summer Drinking

Here is a roundup of some of my favorite wines for summer drinking.

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Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2014 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. It has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $14

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross-featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_8070

Pinot Grigio 2014 Alto Adige DOC Peter Zimmer. Made from a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. The low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment. Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, and a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $17IMG_8062

Urban Riesling 2014 Nik Weis Selection non-estate Mosel. 100% Mosel Riesling from vineyards around the town of Mehring. The Riesling is grown here on steep slopes with a perfect angle for the sun’s rays. The soil is blue, highly decomposed slate rocks that give the wine its minerality.

The owner/winemaker Nik Weis is a minimalist and traditionalist. The grapes are not destemmed, there is a slight maceration of the grapes, a gentle pressing and gravity-fed sedimentation. There is indigenous yeast fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. There is a very gentle filtration. It is a complex wine with a smoky and floral bouquet, with juicy fruit and a minerality that finishes off dry. The wine in named for St. Urban, the patron saint of German winemakers. Alcohol is 9.5% and the residual sugar is 33g/l. $14IMG_8063

Frascati DOC “Terre Dei Grifi 2013 Made from 50% Malvasia Bianco di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco and 10% Malvasia del Lazio. Hillside vineyards with volcanic, potassium rich soil. The grapes are gently pressed and vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine rests on its lees for 4 months to impart greater complexity, structure and bouquet. The wine ages in stainless steel tanks until it is ready to be bottled. The wine has fragrances of exotic fruits and citrus with a touch of ripe pear and almond in the finish. $12

Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 Colli Aprutini IGT Cerulli Spinozzi (Abruzzo) 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation in stainless steel, then malolactic. It is aged on its lees for 5 months before the wine is bottled. Hints of white flowers, peach, citrus fruits and apricot. There is a touch of bitter almond in the finish. I was very impressed by this wine, one of the best I have tasted. $16IMG_8098

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Bianco 2013 DOC Struzziero made from 85% Caprettone 15% and Falanghina or Greco. The vineyards are located on the slopes of Vesuvius. Crushing and destemming followed by a soft pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation. The wine is bottled in March following the harvest. Aromas and flavors of citrus fruit with good minerality and a touch of smoke. $12

Sparkling

Organic Prosecco DOC grapes for this small production Prosecco are harvested from certified organic wine estate in the town of Vazzola in Treviso. The grapes are grown without chemicals or fertilizers, the grapes are 100% organically grown. It is produced in the extra dry style with just a little more residual sugar than a Brut. It has hints of green apple and a touch of tropical fruit. $16

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Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc  This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $14IMG_7661

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Rosé 20014 Cuvée Pétale de Rose AOC Côtes de Provence. Made from 42% Cinsault, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Ugni-blanc 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Sèmillon, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Rolle. The hand harvest took place between August 16 and September 16. This is a wine with nice red berry aromas and flavors. Very easy to drink with a nice finish and aftertaste. $18

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Cantina Terlano St. Maddalena 2014 Alto Adige DOC made from 80% Schiava and 15% Lagrein. The vineyards are between 230 and 500 meters and the exposure is south/ southwest. Harvest is by hand and there is a grape selection and they are destemmed. This is followed by a slow must fermentation at a controlled temperatures and gentle agitation of the must in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation and aging is in big wooden barrels for 7/10 months. The wines are blended one month before bottling. The wine has hints of black elderberry and cherry with a touch of bitter almond and violet. It has balanced acidity and low tannins which is a unique feature of the Schiava grape. $20IMG_8069

Scherecbichl Colterenzio Kalterersee Auslese Classico Superiore 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Schiava. (Vernatsch) produced by old traditional pergola trained vines. The hillside vineyards are at 410/440 meters and the soils are morainal mixed with sand and eroded porphyry deposits. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation, then four months of aging in tanks. It had red summer fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry, light tannin and acidity. This is a wine to be drunk young served slightly chilled for summer drinking.IMG_8068

Kaltern Caldaro Kalterersee Auslese 2013 Alto DOC Adige 100% Schiava (Vernatsch). The vineyards are on south and east facing slopes surrounding Lake Kaltern at 230/450 meters. The soil is loamy, limestone gravel, with a small proportion of sand. The average age of the vines is 20/50 years and the training system is the pergola. Harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is for one week on the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged four months on the fine lees in stainless steel and large casks. It has hints of cherry and raspberry with a touch of bitter almond. Wine should be drunk young.IMG_8066

Chianti Classico “Aziano” 2013 DOCG Ruffino Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino and Canaiolo. The soil is moderate clay content rich in Galestro rocks. The vineyards are at 200/400 meters. The vines are guyot trained and cordon spur pruned. Fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Once malolatic fermentation is complete the wine is aged for 11 months in stainless steel and concrete vats and four months in bottle before release. It has hints of red berries, cherries, violets, plums and a touch of spice. $14IMG_8064

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 Sartori di Verona made from 45% Corvina, 30% Covinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatioa. The Valpolicella Classico area is north of Verona and the soil is calcareous with fine layers of limestone. There is soft pressing with skin maceration for 8 to 10 days. After pressing 10% of the must is extracted to obtain better color and tannin. After racking and malolactic fermentation the wine is aged partially in stainless steel and partially in oak for 15 months. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. It has aromas and flavors of rich red fruit with hints of black cherry, nice minerality and soft tannins. $20

I was very impressed with this wine. It was one of the best Valpolicellas I have tasted in a long time.

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Filed under Banfi, Bila- Haut, Bio-Dynamic, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kalterer See, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Struzziero, Petale de Rose, Peter Zemmer, Pfarrhof Kaltern, Prosecco, Ruffino, Sartori di Verona, St. Magdalener- Hausler, Terre dei Grifi Frascati, Urban Riesling-Nik Weis