~ Picturesque Castello Banfi ~

Given all the suspicion, debate and rumor surrounding Montalcino and its various recent scandals related to counterfeit Brunello and illegal blending, today’s article sort of debunks that supposition;  at least as it relates to Castello Banfi.

Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes.  But can great wine be made in Montalcino from Sangiovese that doesn’t meet the criteria to be called Brunello or Sangiovese “tainted” with a dollop of non-native varietals?  The answer is clearly yes.  And many producers do so admirably given the array of “Super Tuscans” that line market shelves.  Perhaps the better question to ask is this:  Why would a producer, who can easily make a non-conforming Super Tuscan – and likely sell it for more than their Brunello – risk their reputation by attempting to do just that on the sly?    But I digress…..  

Today’s review is on the recently released 2011 Castello Banfi BelneroLoosely translated, Belnero means beautiful dark one and this mostly Sangiovese is exactly that.  Bolstered by a tiny addition non-native grapes, Belnero is the estate’s vision for what Sangiovese grown in Montalcino can create when crafted outside the DOCG regulations.  
The 2011 is a gorgeous deep ruby color with violet highlights.  At once, without decanting the aromas are penetrating.  Crushed red fruits, exotic spices, and sweet tobacco are perfumed and notable.  On the palate, the wine is elegant, fresh and vibrant.  Juicy red fruit flavors are accented with dusty cinnamon, leafy tobacco and a slight touch of mocha.  Balanced well,  this is approachable right now but will easily cellar for 5-7 years. I can’t wait to try the 2012. 
Belnero is fermented in Castello Banfi’s patented hybrid fermentors that are a combination of stainless steel and oak.  It’s aged 14 months in French oak barrique, 30% of which are new.  Price varies widely on this wine, so shop carefully.  92 points, about $25.   

~ Castello Banfi’s Belnero is predominantly Sangiovese with a tiny addition of Merlot ~

In the coming weeks,  TuscanVines will feature a “Belnero Retrospective” – a look back at several of the past vintages of this wine.  Introduced in 2007, Belnero has become a special project dear to Castello Banfi Proprietor Cristina Mariani.  Our look back will include a Q&A with Cristina and her reflections on creating this new wine. 


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