Made in a vintage that saw one of the hottest heat waves in European history,Castello Banfi's Chianti Classico Riserva 2003(£9.99 at Majestic) is sure to bring some Tuscan sun to the British winter.
Chiantiis probably the mostwell-known wine-producing region of Italy, and the best vineyards are found in theClassico zonewhich stretches between Siena and Florence. The Riserva wines have longer bottle ageing before release, and historically were the bottles kept back by landlords for their own, private consumption. CastelloBanfihas cultivatedlong-standing relationshipswith growers in the region; bothWinemaker Rudy BurattiandAgronomist Maurizo Marmugitravel regularly to the vineyards to oversee the development of the vines, and to ensure they have access to the best grapes every year for the Banfi Chianti Classico wines.
Castello Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2003is a blend of80% Sangioveseand10%each ofCanaiolo NeroandCabernet Sauvignon. Heavy rainfall in the winter before the harvest reduced the stress the heat wave caused the vines, resulting in what Buratti refers to as a "…near perfect Sangiovese harvest." The grapes were hand-picked in the second half of September and fermentation took place in stainless steel over ten days at controlled temperatures of between 25 and 30oC. After racking, the wine was aged for 12 months in Slavonian oak barrels and a further two years in bottle in the Banfi cellars before release.
This wine is an intense, deep-garnet red colour, with delicate aromas of plum and cherry on the nose. Its subtle tannins, balanced structure and long length make this rich red delicious when enjoyed with cold meat antipasti, and tomato pasta dishes.
When brothers John and Harry Mariani established Banfi in 1978, their aim was to produce a consistent supply of top-quality wine on a scale never previously attempted in Italy. Now under the direction of family proprietors Cristina Mariani-May and James Mariani, the vineyards of the 2,830ha estate are overlooked by the Castello Banfi - a mediaeval fortress which has been meticulously restored as a visitor centre and houses a glass museum, balsameria, enoteca, taverna and Michel-starred restaurant. Spring 2007 will see the official opening of a new development of fourteen luxury rooms and apartments on the estate.