(Montalcino, Italy – October 2004) After four years of early harvests and seasons punctuated by extreme weather – including spring frosts, summer heat waves and autumnal rainstorms – the natural rhythm of southern Tuscany returned to its historic norms this year and the Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino reported an excellent vintage.
“Weather conditions throughout 2004 made for a text-book example of a perfect growing season,” said Cristina Mariani-May, family proprietor of Castello Banfi. “Abundant winter rains gave the vines plenty of water to draw on during a summer that was hot but not torrid, and there were no spoiler storms during the crucial autumn harvest. Our team diligently avoided the only risk of such a season, overproduction, through careful pruning, canopy management, and green harvesting.”
Castello Banfi began harvesting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio on August 30, a full three weeks later than last year. Calm, clear weather allowed winemakers to let grapes mature to perfection on the vine. Harvesting of the later maturing varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese for the famed Brunello di Montalcino, was completed on October 19.
“The tendency of the past few vintages was leading us to view harvest as more of a rite of summer than an autumnal tradition,” said Ms. Mariani-May. “By harvesting early in the season and early in the day, we were able to turn those conditions in our favor and make some excellent wines, but this season was more akin to 1999, one of the most favorable in our history.”
Dramatic differences between warm daytime and cool nightly temperatures have always been the key to a great vintage, according to Ms. Mariani-May, and were the norm for this season.
Castello Banfi will likely declare 2004 the first vintage since 1999 of the single-vineyard reserve Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino, produced only in optimal years.
The family owned Castello Banfi vineyard estate has been described as a “constellation of single vineyards.”