Rudy Buratti, chief winemaker for Castello Banfi, died Saturday at the age of 56 in Tuscany, Italy.
Buratti was born in Bleggio Superiore, Trento. In 1981, he graduated from Italy’s Agricultural University of San Michele Alto Adige, which is one world’s top enological schools. Upon graduation, he decided to “go south” and intern at the nascent Castell Banfi estate in Montalcino, Italy, “at least for a vintage or two to see if I could learn something.”
Buratti formally joined the winemaking team at Castello Banfi in 1983. One of his first duties at the vineyard estate was quality control. This was a concept he and the winery’s U.S. proprietors and Italian management, held in the highest regard, and this arguably explains the estate’s rapid success. He once said, “quality control is fundamental to expressing our unique terroir, maintaining a consistent style and upholding the reputation that we have earned over the past three decades.”
In 1999, he was named chief winemaker, succeeding his long-time mentor Ezio Rivella. Speaking at a reception after Buratti’s funeral on Monday, Rivella described Buratti as “a winemaker in every sense of the word, sensitive and well prepared, an explorer who sought to continually improve. Rudy was a serious manager, Trentino to his core. We have lost a great man and an exemplary professional.”
At the time of his death, Buratti was overseeing a team of nine managers and 50 cellar workers, and enjoyed a direct rapport with the Mariani family proprietors of Castello Banfi.
He was part of the original team that isolated and registered 15 optimal clones of the Sangiovese grape to make outstanding Brunello di Montalcino tailored to the micro-climate of the Castello Banfi estate. Those who heard his presentations were mesmerized by his “evangelical passion” for the Sangiovese grape, Brunello wine, and the unique terroir of Montalcino.
He also co-wrote—alongside colleagues at Banfi and professors from the universities of Pisa and Milan— The Pursuit of Excellence, a case study detailing Banfi’s research and development over the past 35 years.
Buratti was also a man who did not take himself too seriously, but took his wines very seriously.
He once responded to one interviewer who had asked about that old saw of good wine being made in the vineyard, not the cellar: “When our vineyard manager brings me good fruit, he likes to remind me that it is my job not to screw it up!
“But in all seriousness, a well-made wine should be a reflection of the soil that it grows in, the microclimate of the region, and the unique conditions of that vintage. It is the role of the winemaker to usher the grapes through the winery, and yes, act as a minimalist, but take the measures necessary for them to accurately fulfill their potential.”
Buratti is survived by his wife, Ursula Ciola, and two daughters.