Castello Banfi, Montalcino's premier vineyard estate, has announced the release of a distinctive new Super Tuscan cuvée for January 2002. Called Cum Laude, Latin for "with honors," the wine combines 25% of a Banfi clonal selection of the region's historic Brunello grape, with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 15% Syrah, each vinified separately. The wine flanks two other Castello Banfi proprietary cuvées bearing Latin names; SummuS (Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah) for "the highest," and ExcelsuS (Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot) for "eminent" or "lofty." All three are aged in French Oak barrels, Cum Laude for only 14 months vs. 18-24 months for SummuS and ExcelsuS. While SummuS and Excelsus are considered the estate's "First Growths"--originating from premium single vineyards and only released in optimal vintage years--Cum Laude is sourced from vineyards previously dedicated solely to Banfi's 100% varietal wines. A 750ml bottle of Cum Laude will sell at roughly the same $35 retail price as the 100% varietals, Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Mandrielle Merlot, and Colvecchio Syrah, compared to $62 for SummuS and $70 for ExcelsuS. "Cum Laude will complement our 100% varietals with greater potential for growth," explained Castello Banfi family proprietor Cristina Mariani, "We have found that a cuvée allows greater expression of terroir, flavors that are unique to our estate's, soil and microclimate." The first vintage of Cum Laude is 1999, rated excellent for the region and considered the best in Castello Banfi's 25-year history. The season was noted for lower temperatures than usual, abundant sunshine, and a harvest period undisturbed by rainfall. The resulting wine is complex with notes of blackberries, plum jam and aromas of licorice and pipe tobacco. Cum Laude is full-bodied with dense tannins that are round and soft. A limited production of 6,600 12-bottle cases of the 1999 vintage were produced. Cum Laude will be marketed to fine restaurants and exclusive wine shops around the world.