Intense heat has sped up Harvest 2000 at Castello Banfi, where high quality promises to reward the sweat and toil. Unusually high temperatures of 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit from mid-August accelerated the ripening of the grapes, according to Cristina Mariani, family proprietor of Castello Banfi. Picking started on August 23rd with the usual early-ripening Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, as well as the normally later-maturing Sauvignon Blanc. After only ten days, harvest of the white varietals is nearly complete and harvest has already begun on the reds, including early-maturing Merlot and Gamay as well as traditionally later-maturing Syrah and Sangiovese. The youngest vineyards of Cabernet and Sangiovese are proving most susceptible to the heat and ready for picking, noted Ms. Mariani, while those only a few years older can wait, refreshed by the rain that fell on the afternoon of Friday, September 1. "But it is important," she stressed, "that harvesting continue at a brisk pace. The grapes are in excellent condition now, but we don't know what changing weather patterns will bring in the near future. Having our crews well-organized and highly mobile is a key advantage in a situation like this." Meanwhile, Ms Mariani reported that the first Pinot Grigio grapes to be harvested have completed fermentation, with excellent results. "They are proving to be more structured, complex, and concentrated than last year's highly rated vintage," she said. "And the first Merlot harvested, after only a day or so of fermentation, offers an extraordinary concentration of aromas, notable as much for their quality as their quantity." "Notwithstanding the hectic pace of the harvest season so far," declared Ms. Mariani, "we are very optimistic about the potential for vintage 2000!"