The 2002 VinItaly International Wine Fair ended today with confirmation of Castello Banfi of Montalcino, Tuscany as the best winery in Italy. The official recognition, awarded for the ninth year in a row, was based on the judgment of a jury of over 100 wine professionals and journalists from all over the world. They blind-tasted 2500 wines from 28 countries and granted Castello Banfi wines more medals to generate a higher cumulative score than any other Italian vintner. For the Mariani family, proprietors of Castello Banfi, the recognition is testament to the fact that they have firmly entrenched themselves into this formerly traditional community that nearly shunned them when they founded their 7,100-acre vineyard estate less than a quarter century ago. "We are very proud to have become a pillar of a community that values excellence, innovation and tradition," said Cristina Mariani, who oversees estate operations on her family's behalf. "It was a very different world here when we first started to raise the bar, but our neighbors have come to embrace our presence as well as our philosophies." Castello Banfi is also an unprecedented four-time winner of the "International Winery of the Year" award winning the "Premio Gran VinItaly" in 2000, 1996, 1995 and 1994. Castello Banfi estate has been described as a "constellation of single vineyards." Its premium wines include the Poggio all'Oro single vineyard reserve of the Montalcino region's historic Brunello di Montalcino, noble international varietals and two proprietary cuvées, SummuS and ExcelsuS. A medieval castle crowns the estate and serves as a hospitality center for the region, housing a restaurant, enoteca, and museum tracing the historical relationship between glass and wine.