Harvest Not as Early or Sparse as Other Regions
(Montalcino, Italy – December 2007) While much of Italy reported an early harvest and dramatically reduced quantities, the Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, found more favorable conditions and even greater results thanks to new winemaking techniques put in place this year.
“Certainly this season proceeded contrary to what we expect from a warm climate such as ours,” said Cristina Mariani-May, Castello Banfi family proprietor. “There was very little rainfall, well below average, causing some vines to sporadically suffer from hydric stress but mostly delivering very concentrated fruit. In the absence of excessive heat to impact that fruit, the grapes showed exceptional varietal character and well developed aromatics.” Dry, cool weather in September, she added, allowed Banfi to leave the grapes on the vine longer to allow the polyphenols – responsible for color and tannins – to mature optimally.
Most importantly, according to Ms. Mariani-May, this harvest marked the inauguration of the estate’s new “microvinification” area, a mini winery within a winery. After a rigid selection during hand harvesting in the vineyard itself, the grapes are conveyed on a sorting table where first bunches and then individual berries are selected by hand. They are then gently moved by a gravity feed system into hybrid fermentation tanks developed and patented by Banfi; the tanks have a base and cap of stainless steel which is easier to keep clean and control temperature, with a central jacket of oak staves to allow for natural micro-oxygenation and impart flavor.
“The ability to carefully select the fruit coming into the winery and separately ferment the grapes from each individual vineyard gave us a greater level of control and a greater expression of our estate’s unique terroirs,” said Ms. Mariani-May. “Nature did not deal us her very best hand this year, but by controlling more of the variables we were able to achieve an overall greater quality, with much less variation from vineyard to vineyard.”
While the harvest did not start particularly early at Castello Banfi – on August 22 for the estate’s Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay and September 6 for Merlot, the first of the red varieties – it did turn out to be a long season, continuing through September with Syrah and Sangiovese and concluding only on October 20 with the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The family-owned Castello Banfi vineyard estate and winery is the first in the world to be awarded international recognition for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) as well as customer satisfaction (ISO 9001:2000). Castello Banfi was also declared “International Winery of the Year” an unprecedented four times and Italy’s “Premier Vineyard Estate” an unprecedented 11 consecutive years at the VinItaly wine fair in Verona, Italy. A medieval castle crowning the estate serves as a hospitality center for the region, housing the Michelin-starred Ristorante Castello Banfi, the more informal Taverna, and luxury rooms and suites in Il Borgo, as well as an enoteca and a museum tracing the history of glass as it relates to wine.