~ Castello Banfi in Montalcino ~

It’s been almost a year to the day that I had the privilege of sitting down to dinner with Castello Banfi’s General Manager, Enrico Viglierchio to taste through the property’s new wines and to relay *your* questions to one of the most influential individuals in the Castello Banfi hierarchy.   Naturally, when I found out that Enrico would be in town again, I was eager to get updates on the topics we discussed.  Following up on last year’s format, I solicited questions from my readers and relayed these to Enrico over the course of dinner.  Andiamo!

Fermentation tanks

~ The hybrid steel/oak fermentation tanks that Castello Banfi uses for its premium red wines ~

We began the dinner with some grilled calamari, octopus carpaccio and mussels bianco to compliment the newest release of Castello Banfi’s Vermentino.  The 2018 La Pettegola is sourced from Castello Banfi’s Maremma property and is predominantly Vermentino with a splash of Chardonnay in the mix.  In the warmer 2018 vintage, this wine presents itself with very pale golden color and aromas that remind of guava, white peach, lemon grass and saline.  Fresh and lively on the palate, this is the perfect accompaniment to the antipasto. I’d be happy to buy a 6-pack of this wine each and every Spring.  89 points, great value around $15.  Find this wine.

Ever since barrel tasting vineyard parcels at the estate in 2017, I’ve been itching to get some single vineyard wines in my cellar.  I queried Enrico last year – answer below – and made sure to follow up.

“I think yes, most likely Giovanni.  I think the trend is to bottle more single vineyard wines, both to show the differences in the soil but also to illustrate how the different clones of Sangiovese can produce such dissimilar wines.  This will probably not happen until the 2016 vintage and will likely be just from one vineyard.  However, from year to year the vineyard we choose could change.  As far as production, I would guess no more than 500-1,000 six bottle cases.”

Enrico is sticking to his guns!  Any new single vineyard Brunello produced will begin with the 2016 vintage.  There could be more than one, or the vintage could change depending upon how well each parcel shows in a given vintage.  There are also plans in the works for some new wines including a pure Cabernet Franc beginning from 2020 and a Ciligielo from 2019.   Enrico loves the Cabernet Franc and Castello Banfi has been waiting more than 5 years for the vineyard to produce adequate grapes before bottling this wine.  He is very excited about this project.  Ciliegiolo he calls “Sangiovese’s crazy cousin” and mused how sensitive it can be to the various soils.  Ciliegiolo is very tannic by nature and Enrico stated that they’d use only large Botte for this wine and no barrique.  “It is very sensitive to oak applications because of its tannic structure so we want to be very aware of this.”

Brunello wine

~ The two 2014 Brunello from Castello Banfi showed very well with the meal. The Poggio alle Mura was particularly impressive ~

The 2014 Castello Banfi Estate Brunello showed very well with my Osso Bucco.  Medium to dark ruby, this Brunello displays ripe berry fruit with good concentration for the vintage.  On the nose there are hints of flowers, berries and baking spices.  Medium bodied on the palate with elegant red fruits mingling with dried tobacco and soft licorice notes.  This wine had about 10% of juice from 2015 blended into it.  (Up to 15% is allowed by law under DOCG regulations) Drinks well right now.  89 points, about $55.  Find this wine.

The 2014 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello is something to behold.  Darker than the estate wine, it is one of the darkest 2014s I’ve seen.  The nose of the wine is loaded with wild berry, cherry and vanilla tones at this young stage.  Although approachable with the meal, there is some “grip” here.  Flavors follow the nose with an added hint of vanilla and this finishes long and elegantly.  Production of this wine was reduced by almost 45% in the vintage though given that, no other vintage juice was included in this wine.  Poggio alle Mura is from a single vineyard near the castel walls.  Amazing how good this wine is.  93 points, about $65.  Find this wine.

~ Quei bravi regazzi ~

After the Brunello, we began talking about the most recent vintages; 2017 and 2018.  Enrico mentioned that  the 2017 harvest was extremely challenging across the board.  What began in most winemaking regions across Italy as an exercise in avoiding damaging frosts during April morphed into a summer devoid of rain and blistering heat.  Temperatures ranging from 95-110 degrees were not at all uncommon.  In some areas, grapes dried to raisins on the vines.   In this sort of weather, the vines are shocked into a sort of “self defense” mode.  They shut down and direct all of their energy toward surviving.  As a result, nutrients that would normally nourish the grapes are lost and while the grapes mature to ripeness, the tannins do not get properly ripened.  Selection was severe at Castello Banfi and yields were down significantly.

The 2018 harvest was markedly better.  Though interestingly, Enrico mentioned that in his mind he splits the harvest into two periods divided by September 10th.  For earlier varieties like Merlot and for younger vineyards, it was a more difficult vintage. However, the later ripening varietals and mature vineyards were harvested in mid to late October. Cabernet was excellent, Sangiovese is also of very high quality and for the most part, production was close to normal.

Next up was the 2015 Summus.  Nearly black in the glass, you could tell this was going to be a monster.  Shy on the nose at first, with air the wine developed aromas of black plums, smoke and bacon.  On the palate, the black fruit flavors are huge yet show total elegance. Velvety and balanced without a hint of interference from the tannins.  Fresh and long.  This is easily a 15-25 year wine and shows all the pedigree for a long, complex and elegant evolution. Special stuff.  95+ points.  About $65.  Find this wine.

~ A stellar, silky, velvety, yet massive Summus ~

Once again, a big thank you to Enrico for his time and tutelage.  We will see you soon.  Salute!

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