Category Archives: Castello Banfi

Aroma, Wild Boar and Brunello

Whenever I think of wild boar, I think of Brunello, both of which remind me of the unforgettable meal I had in Tuscany a few years ago which featured pasta with wild boar ragu followed by wild boar ribs.   So when I heard that Aroma Restaurant in NYC was doing a wild boar menu and each course would be paired with a Brunello from Castello Banfi, I couldn’t resist.  

Castello Banfi

Castello Banfi

Philip Di Belardino, the director of fine wines for Banfi, was the host and speaker.  I have known Filippo, as his friends call him, for a number of years.  He is passionate about all things Italian and is an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker.  He explained how the Banfi company came to Montalcino in 1978 and purchased Poggio Alla Mura, now Castello Banfi.  Currently, Banfi is the largest continuous landowner in Italy. The company has done intensive research on the Sangiovese clone found the area.  They studied over 650 clones and isolated 3, which are vinified into their Poggio Alla Mura Brunello.

The WinesBrunello_di_Montalcino_Bottle

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 2007 100% Sangiovese (select clones).  The winter was mild and the growing season started early. Heavy rain in May and early June provided enough water reserves for the mid-June heat wave. The fall rainwater was perfect and the harvest was one week early, but lasted into the middle of October. The grapes come from over 100 small vineyards, some older, and some more recently planted with the selected Banfi clones.  A meticulous grape selection takes place. Fermentation is in temperature–controlled stainless steel/ French oak hybrid tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 12 days. Philip said that this was the first year Banfi used these hybrid tanks. The wine is aged in 50% French oak barriques, and 50% Slavonian oak casks for two years. Philip said that 2007 was a great vintage for them. By law the wine is released the 5th year after the harvest.
The wine has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry and plum and a touch of tobacco. It has a long finish and very pleasant aftertaste. A winter greens salad, and braised boar shoulder with lardoons, which I really enjoyed, went very well with the wine.

The hybrid tanks–half stainless steel and half French oak–were invented and patented by Banfi. They had an exclusive on these hybrid tanks for three years before they were released for sale to other wineries.

Brunello Di Montalchino D.O.C.G. 2006 Spring rainfall allowed for water reserves over the hot summer months. High temperatures in July and an ideal range between daytime and nighttime temperatures in August allowed the grapes to ripen exceptionally well. The warm weather in September made it an excellent harvest. The vinification   was in stainless steel tanks otherwise it was the same as the 2007 as was the aging. Philip said that their wine maker believed 2006 was a slightly better vintage than 2007. Pici (handmade pasta strands) with wild boar ragu, porcini and pecorino tartufo went very well with the wine.

Pici, wild boar ragu,porcini and pecorino tartufo

Pici, wild boar ragu,porcini and pecorino tartufo

The next three wines were served with wild boar ribs in porchetta with Brussels sprouts. I like this best with the1998.Poggio_alle_Mura_Bottle

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. “Poggio Alle Mura” 2006 This is a cru (single vineyard).  The selected clones are from the slopes surrounding Castello Banfi. Fermentation for 12 to 14 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, traditional maceration with frequent pumping over. Malolactic fermentation is in barriques. It unfiltered. Philip said it was Banfi’s first unfiltered wine. The wine is aged for 24 months in 10% Slavonian oak casks (60hl & 120hl) and in French barriques. These are custom-made 350-liter oak barrels (larger than a barrique, smaller than a tonneaux).  These oak barrels are 1/3 new, 1/3 one-year-old, 1/3 two-year-old and are used for all of the Poggio Alle Mura.  This is an elegant wine with hints of plum, tobacco, coffee and a touch of leather. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste and has great potential for aging.

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 2004 This was a normal growing season, rain in the spring, overall lower summer temperatures, variations between night and day temperatures which lead to balanced ripening. Fermentation and aging is the same as for the 2006.
This is a complex wine, well structured with red fruit flavors and aromas, spice and a hint of vanilla.  This is the only one with a hint of vanilla. Personally I prefer the regular 2004 which I have tasted on a number of occasions and believe it to be a great wine. The wine needs time.  2004 was a very good vintage.

Wild boar rib in porchetta and brussels sprouts

Wild boar rib in porchetta and brussels sprouts

Brunello Di Montalcino D.O.C.G. 1998   Very dry and hot summer had a significant impact on the quality of the grapes, resulting in a contained vegetative development and, most significantly, a smaller berry size. The greater proportion of skin and seed to pulp dictated the terms of vinification. In order to soften the tannins, it was necessary to reduce the maceration time and remove the seeds from the vinaccia as much as possible.  Philip said that this was the second vintage of this wine coming from vineyards made up entirely of clones selected on the estate. This was my favorite wine of the evening. Elegant and complex with hints of raspberries, blackberries, plums and a touch of licorice with great balance.


Filed under Brunello, Castello Banfi, Montalcino, Poggio alle Mura

Tasting Sangiovese on the Crystal Serenity

 The last day at sea as the Crystal Serenity sailed toward Istanbul I taught a wine class in the main dining room entitled “Sangiovese in Tuscany.”  I selected four wines made from 100% Sangiovese or mostly from that grape.  Over 50 people showed up for the tasting though there were a number of other events going on at the same time. The class members asked some very good questions and made interesting comments and I enjoyed doing the class. The ship glided so smoothly through the water that the wine in the glasses was perfectly still.

Telling the class about Sangiovese

 The Wines

Chianti Classico 2008 DOCG 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon Querciabella. 

 Selection of the grapes takes place in the vineyard and they are destemmed and not crushed. Alcoholic and maceration fermentation take place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Maceration lasts for about 12 days for the Sangiovese and as much as 20 days for the other cépages.  After complete malolatic fermentation the wine is transferred into barriques. The French oak comes from Allier, Chatillon, Nevers and Troncais.  10% of the Sangiovese is in new barrels and 90% is first and second passage.  80% of the other Cabernet Sauvignon is in new barrels. There is separate aging. The wine may be aged for as long as 14 months. Then the best lots are selected to create the final blend. The wine is released around 18 months after the harvest. Querciabella has been organic since 1988 and Biodyamic since 2000. They use no animal products or by-products and therefore the wine can be drunk by vegetarians and vegans!  The wine has red berry aromas and flavors with hints of cherry and a touch of violet.

Rosso di Montalcino 2008 DOC 100% Sangiovese Grosso Casanova di Neri The harvest took place from September 19 to October 9th. The grapes are harvested by hand and are inspected on a sorting table. A machine removes the stalks from the grapes, which then drop on to another sorting table. The selected grapes are taken by gravity to tanks where the vinification process takes place.  Fermentation and maceration lasted for 18 days. It is aged for one year in wood. The wine was bottled on the 9, 10 and 11 of November 2009. It has red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of ripe cherry.

Brunello di Montalcino 2005 DOCG 100% Sangiovese Castello Banfi

The soil is a yellowish brown color, calcareous sandy top soil with many rounded stones. The training system is spurred cordon and there are between 2,400 and 4,400 vines per hectare. After a careful grape selection the grapes are vinified with skin contact for 10 to 12 days. The wine is aged for 2 years in oak barrels, 50% in 350 liter barriques and 50% in 60 and 120 hl Slovenian oak casks. The wine is then aged in bottle for another 8 to 12 months before release. Banfi has done 20 years of research to come up with what they believe are the perfect clones of Sangiovese to make Brunello. At Vinitaly a few years ago I went to a Banfi seminar on their Brunello and it was very informative. I believe they use three different clones of Sangiovese in their Brunello.

This wine has red and black fruit flavors and aromas with hints of black cherry, violets and a touch of tobacco. Last year when I tasted the 2004 regular Brunello I really liked it and I am pleased to see that the 2005 is in the same style.

Flaccianello della Pieve IGT 2007 Agricola Fontodi 100% Sangiovese.

There are 6,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeast and maceration takes place in steel tanks with fullers and thermal control for at least 3 weeks. Malolatic fermentation takes place in oak barrels. The wine is aged in Troncais and Allier barriques for 18 months. This was the most international style wine of the four that we tasted.

The next day we arrived in Istanbul, or should I say Constantinople, as Istanbul means

“to the city”.

If you still do not know what to serve for Thanksgiving I would suggest an Amarone or

Ripasso from Bertaini, Tedeschi, Speri ,Tommasi or Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve.


Filed under Brunello, Castello Banfi, Chianti Classico, Crystal Cruises, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine