Castello Banfi joins over 40 other members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino in previewing the 1999 vintage of Brunello and the 1998 Riserva in the US in November and at home in Montalcino in February 2004.
The U.S. tastings, at the Grand Hyatt in New York on November 4 and the Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica on November 10, are geared to the trade and press. The tastings in Montalcino are open to the press only on February 13 but welcome the trade and public on February 16.
The 1999 vintage was rated four out of five stars by the consorzio. The entire season presented optimal conditions for the vine, offering outstanding results for both early and later maturing varieties. Winter rainfall supplied sufficient water reserves that were useful to the plants over a summer that was hot but not torrid. Over a cool spring, the vines developed balance that they maintained into the autumn. Light mid-summer rainfall helped stabilize the plants’ metabolism and develop ideal tannins and phenols, resulting in deeply colored wines. A consistent variation between day and night temperatures allowed the grapes to develop intense varietal aromas and remain in perfect condition for harvest.
Brunello di Montalcino is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes and is aged a minimum of four years, including a minimum of two in oak. It was Italy’s first wine to be accorded D.O.C.G. status, a testament to its aristocracy, balance and fabulous proclivity for aging. A wine of robust character, it possesses a rich garnet color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering finish. Its regal qualities are best exhibited with game, red meats, roasts, hearty stews and rich, powerful cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano.
Castello Banfi has undertaken painstaking research in the clonal selection of Sangiovese vines for the production of its Brunello di Montalcino, narrowing the field from a mix of 650 different individual clones to a final selection of 15 that represent the greater part of the grape’s inherent variables, each registered with the European Community for others to use – Castello Banfi being the only producer, as opposed to universities and nurseries, to register clones with the government. Today, Castello Banfi’s vineyards for Brunello are planted with the final selection of three clones determined to produce the most consistently outstanding Brunello, ideally matched to individual soil types and impervious to seasonal climactic fluctuations. “In part, Castello Banfi was in a good position to undertake a study of this extreme because of the breadth of our estate and our dedication to quality,” observed Ms. Mariani-May. “But sharing the results with our fellow producers demonstrates our philosophy that by improving the overall quality of wines offered to the consumer by all producers, the whole wine world benefits.”
In addition to achieving a consistently superior expression of Brunello di Montalcino, the isolation of superior clones also improves the quality of the cuvées that include Sangiovese. A stronger Sangiovese allows for such blends to be made on the basis of the strength of Sangiovese as a complement to other varieties, as opposed to the need in the past to blend in order to overcome any weakness of Sangiovese. “Our work,” said Ms. Mariani-May, “has brought Sangiovese to the level of Europe’s noble varietals. This was, after all, one of my family’s fundamental goals in founding Castello Banfi.”