The Pursuit of Excellence at Castello Banfi inspired research to produce wines more naturally. Several of Europe’s foremost enologists joined the president of The World and The Italian Enological Societies at Castello Banfi to pioneer technology to reduce sulfites, eliminate histamines and errant enzymes, perfect vineyard improvements, develop nitrogen bottling and filter-free wines for enhanced complexity and elegance. When John Mariani Jr., family proprietor and now Chairman Emeritus of Banfi, inaugurated Castello Banfi winery in 1984, he declared, “It is our fondest desire that this project will be good for the people of Montalcino, good for Italy, good for America, good for all people who love fine wine.”
Staying true to these words, Castello Banfi has become one of the world’s most unique research vineyard estates, with decades of clonal research, soil and hydration studies, pioneering nitrogen bottling, research into different French oaks, and the invention of hybrid fermentation tanks. Additionally, Castello Banfi is the first winery in the world awarded international recognition for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) as well as an international leader in customer satisfaction (ISO 9001:2000).
SANGIOVESE – CLONAL SELECTION
In the early 1980s, working in collaboration with the University of Milan and its Professor Attilio Scienza in particular, Banfi undertook a groundbreaking research project focused on the Sangiovese vine, which immediately proved to be complex. An initial analysis found there to be present, just on the Banfi estate and the immediately surrounding area, about 650 different clones of Sangiovese. Studies confirmed that Sangiovese is a family of vines much more diverse than those of typical French varietals, with greater variability and higher sensitivity to geo-climatic conditions. The first group of clones studied was narrowed down to a selection of 180. These were planted in a catalogue vineyard and then micro-vinified separately, leading to a final selection of 15 clones that represent the best characteristics of this exceptional grape. Two of the great characteristics of Sangiovese are its complexity and its variability: for this reason, the goal of the research was not to identify one “super” clone, but a group of clones that together could best express this wealth. As a result, starting in 1992 all of the new plantings of Sangiovese on the estate are characterized by the presence of at least three selected clones that are complementary to each other, chosen for the individual characteristics of the soils in each vineyard site.
The term ‘Horizon’ represents a production philosophy that, together with the unique nature of Montalcino soils, allows Banfi to obtain optimal expression of Sangiovese.
• The grapes, carefully selected and harvested only by hand, arrive at the winery in ideal condition.
• The manual selection of the bunches is followed by an intense selection of the individual grapes, in absolutely perfect condition.
• The true revolution is embodied where fermentation takes place. Banfi invented and patented hybrid fermentation tanks that are made with stainless steel and wood.
• From this unique and inventive fusion of materials, Banfi captures the advantages of each. Stainless steel provides optimal temperature control and the wood contributes to the wines overall character and expression.
• Together, along with other aspects of fermentation, the end result delivers a wine that is less astringent, less bitter, and softer.
Banfi’s commitment to improving the standards in the vineyard and at the winery has enabled them to produce world-class wines that deliver a consistent experience to consumers at exceptional values – starting with its benchmark Brunello di Montalcino, and through its baby super Tuscan, Centine.
From pioneering fine wines in Italy to creating one of the world’s best, most luxurious wine country hotels according to Fodor’s Travel, the Mariani family has transformed the once sleepy hilltop town of Montalcino into one of the most famous destinations in Italy today.
All of Banfi’s work has been documented, published and shared throughout the world in their book, Pursuit of Excellence, available on Amazon.