Ahhh, Montalcino. It holds a special place in my heart for sure, as it does for many lovers of the hilltop town’s famed wine, Brunello di Montalcino. However, Montalcino is about so much more than Brunello. You are just as likely to find modest IGTs, Super Tuscans or white wines as you are Brunello. I’m often asked why? Why would a winery in Montalcino want to fool around with Merlot or Cabernet or Chardonnay? With some brief introspection, the answer is rather simple. Much of the time, it’s nothing more than “because they can”.
Wineries often own vineyards that are outside of the DOCG permitted zone. If they’re not zoned for Brunello, what should they do? Let this prime vineyard land sit idle? Of course not. Some producers are simply challenged by boredom and enjoy the idea of being more creative and growing, yes growing, different wines. Then there are cases like Ferenc Maté. When he was planning his vineyards, the French consultant he hired to do soil analysis found a lovely spot on his estate and told him: “You’d be nuts not to plant Syrah here.” And so Maté heeded the advice and today produces one of Tuscany’s most amazing Syrah. Why? Because he can….
The Castello Banfi estate is no exception. Although the overall size of the estate is very large, only a small portion is devoted to vineyards. The estate has been divided into single vineyard parcels which form a sort of constellation throughout the property. They are at different altitudes, contain different soil compositions and suffer different exposures. Each vineyard was analyzed to determine which varietal would thrive best in the unique environment and today, we see the benefit of that analysis. Castello Banfi produces the only 100% Pinot Grigio from Tuscany. It’s affordable and delicious. Meet San Angelo.
The 2015 Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio hails from the vineyard of the same name and is 100% Pinot Grigio. In the glass, the wine is a medium gold color and perfectly clear to the rim. The taster is greeted by notable aromas of lemon grass, white peach, lemon zest and wet clay. It’s attractive to smell. On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively. Given that Montalcino is located in southern Tuscany, this wine develops more round flavors on the palate than it’s northern cousins from provinces like Trentino. Flavors of ripe peach, lemon and pineapple are persistent and ripe. Crisp and balanced, the acidity cleanses the palate delicately and leaves you ready for another taste. I chose this wine from my cellar to illustrate the differences between an “older” Pinot Grigio and the most recent (yet to be) release. Showing no signs of age and made the perfect pairing with the first pesto of the season. Wonderful value around $17 and a much better buy than one of the more “famous” and ubiquitous Pinot Grigio on the market. Vinified and aged entirely in stainless steel. 88 points. Find this wine.
The foil for both of these wines was an amazing burrata over heirloom tomatoes and the first batch of Pesto Genovese from my orto. To me, these combinations announce that summer is here!
The 2017 Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio was up next and decidedly different from its sibling. The first thing that strikes you is the color. The 2017 is almost clear, like tainted water. It appears more delicate, but it really isn’t. The flavors and aromas are different, but no less concentrated. On the nose, the wine features flinty stone, lemon peel, grapefruit and petrol notes. On the palate, the wine is fresh and crisp with zippy acidity and a nice core of lemon and white nectarine. Fresh and clean on the finish, this plumped up against the backdrop of the burrata and held its own nicely with the pesto. Perhaps the 2015 was a bit more interesting to me at this stage but it will be intriguing to see what becomes of this Pinot Grigio a year from now. 87 points. About $17. Find this wine.
Stay tuned for more in our Gemelli series coming soon. Next up, a pair of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.