The art of Italy's food and wine was on an early summer curriculum for a select group of American and Irish college students majoring in hospitality education, as they headed to Italy and a series of seminars on wine and food hosted by Castello Banfi of Montalcino, Tuscany.
Under the direction of professors from seven schools in the U.S. and Ireland, two groups of 20 students each met for a week in June with prosciutto and cheese makers, pasta and olive oil producers, bakers and vintners and, of course, sample the delights of premier restaurants in the culinary capitols of Parma and Siena. Highlight of each group's tour, however, was a three-day stay at Castello Banfi, four-time winner of Europe's Grand Premio Award as "International Winery of the Year."
The first of Castello Banfi's seminars began in the vineyards, where students delved into the different soil types in the estate's constellation of single vineyards and viewed on-going efforts to match ideal native and international grape varieties to individual site conditions. They were able to taste the results through an in-depth sampling of the estate's latest vintages direct from the barrel and current releases including proprietary blends, SummuS and ExcelsuS, and Castello Banfi's Poggio all'Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.
The students also visited Banfi's balsamic vinegar cellar, enoteca and glass museum, which houses the world's most comprehensive collection of ancient Roman glassware. Seminars in the medieval castle studied locally produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pecorino cheese, honey, bread and biscotti, with one morning class devoted to preparing traditional Tuscan dishes. Castello Banfi proprietor John Mariani hosted informal dinner discussions on the hospitality trade, joined by world-renowned restaurateur Sirio Maccioni of New York's Le Cirque, hotelier Robert Burns of Regent Hotels, and wine critic Burton Anderson, author of several tomes on Italian wine.
Under the tutelage of Banfi's Director of Wine Education, Sharron McCarthy, the students hailed from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY; Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI; Florida State University, Tallahasse, FLA, Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Ithaca, NY; the University of Nevada at Las Vegas; University of Denver, Denver, CO; and Shannon Hotel School Limerick, Ireland.