(Montalcino, August 29) – Though a mid-August hail storm swept through a strip of the Brunello zone and devastated the vineyards of a handful of neighboring producers, the region’s leading vineyard estate, Castello Banfi, reported only minor damage and began its 2008 harvest.
“We share the frustration and sympathize with the loss suffered by our neighbors” said Castello Banfi’s Cristina Mariani-May. “The warming climate has intensified August thunderstorms with larger hail and fierce winds. The storm was concentrated in the southwesternmost part of the zone, taking a path that lead it from Monte Amiata to Sant’Angelo in Colle and then back to Castelnuovo del Abate near the abbey of Sant’Antimo. About 85 acres of our vineyards were damaged while another 60 were marginally touched, leaving our most prized vineyards of Sangiovese for Brunello and varietals for our Super Tuscan cuvees unscathed. A large portion of our plum crop, though, was affected.”
The estate includes 2,600 acres of vineyards over 7,100 acres planted with historic varietals matched to microclimate and soil. Another third of the estate is dedicated to fruit groves and wheat fields, while the balance is left to natural woodland and a truffle forest.
“Twelve days after the storm, we began harvesting our vineyards of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay,” noted Ms. Mariani-May. “The quality is fine and the climatic conditions are now favorable. Of course, as we were reminded on August 15, the weather can turn and leave you unprotected; but, 2008 should be excellent, with healthy grapes balanced by ideal acidity, tannins and concentration of fruit flavor. Moderate rainfalls through the course of the season provided adequate stress for the vines to bear quality fruit.”
“Yield is expected about the same or slightly more than last year. Harvest of our noble reds, including Merlot and Syrah, will start in a fortnight, and be followed by Sangiovese and Cabernet later in the fall.”
Harvest begins next week at Banfi’s Piedmont estate, Vigne Regale, with Brachetto d’Acqui grapes from the single vineyard La Rosa for Banfi’s popular Rosa Regale.
Castello Banfi is internationally acclaimed for its clonal research to improve upon the region’s historical Brunello di Montalcino, and making premier quality wines that are low in sulfites and histamines. It was the first wine estate in the world to be internationally recognized for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) as well as customer satisfaction (ISO 9001:2000). A regional beacon for hospitality, in addition to its two restaurants -- the informal “Castello Banfi – La Taverna” and the fine dining “Castello Banfi – Il Ristorante,” the only winery-based restaurant in Italy to be awarded a Michelin star -- Castello Banfi boasts a glass museum, enoteca, balsamic cellars and daily winery tours for visitors to the region. The newest jewel in this hospitality crown is Castello Banfi – Il Borgo, 14 luxury rooms and suites featuring swimming pool, pergola-covered cloister garden, breakfast nook, and reading room within the castle keep. Signature wines of Castello Banfi include the single-vineyard reserve Poggio all’Oro and unfiltered cru Poggio alle Mura Brunellos, proprietary cuvées ExcelsuS, SummuS and Cum Laude, and single-vineyard varietal wines including Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Colvecchio Syrah and San Angelo Pinot Grigio.