The origins and the creation of Summus have interesting back story. With the rise of famed Super Tuscans like Sassicaia and Ornellaia relying on Bordeaux varietals, Castello Banfi contemplated a different sort of project. Summus, Latin for the word Summit, was conceived to be an homage of three great winegrowing regions of the world: Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscany. Indeed, original trial versions of the blend featured Cabernet, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir. However, quickly enough it became obvious that the Pinot Noir was getting lost in the blend and so that grape was dropped in favor of Syrah. Originally mostly Sangiovese, the wine has evolved over the years and now features equal percentages of Sangiovese and Cabernet and a small portion of Syrah.
Just over a year ago, I chronicled some of this history in my popular article; the Summus Summit Vertical Tasting.
Sourced from hillside estate vineyards on the southern slopes of Montalcino, the vineyards that produce the fruit for Summus sit between 120-250 meters above sea level. The Sangiovese vines are at the highest altitude while the Cabernet and Syrah vines are lower. The varying altitudes allow ideal maturation for each variety, a concept that is especially important in retaining Sangiovese’s aromatic character and maintaining it’s fresh acidity.
The three varieties are vinified separately in Castello Banfi’s specialized hybrid oak/steel fermentors and then aged in French barrique separately for 12 months. Once blended, aging continues in oak for another 8-10 months before 6-12 months final bottle aging.
The 2012 Castello Banfi Summus is now a blend of 40% Cabernet, 40% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah. I recently asked General Manager Enrico Viglierchio why they increased the Syrah percentage from 15 to 20% and his response was rapid and certain: “The Syrah is great!” With the age of the vines now approaching 40 years old, the Syrah is developing a complex personality that lends exceptional character to the wine.
Deep purple at the core, the color of the wine fades ever slightly to garnet at the rim of the bowl. Crafted from the wonderful 2012 vintage, this Super Tuscan is starting to take on additional notes from the Sangiovese. Black plums, crushed cherry, anise and tobacco leaf verging to mint are prominent on the nose. The soft scent of sandalwood underpins it all and adds a sense of elegance.
On the palate, the wine is full bodied and very graceful. The velvety plum flavors coat your palate and are accented by herbal notes of blue flowers and mint. There’s a streak of sweet tobacco on the mid palate that fades softly. The wine finishes long, juicy and ripe. The tannins are very well integrated though they are beginning to “melt” into the large coffee grind like sediment that was decanted off the wine. A wonderful effort. 93 points. About $55-$60. Shop around. Find this wine.