November 9, 2007

Castello Banfi wines

Bill Dowd photos

Banfi is an American-founded Italian company that put Montalcino on the wine map with its brunellos and sangiovese blends. Its Artist Series is one of its more popular lines, but I had an opportunity to sample a fairly broad range during a private tasting in Saratoga County, NY, with Banfi Co-CEO James W. Mariani.

2001 Brunello de Montalcino DOCG:

Any wine that can hold its ground with steak forno is a big, bold wine. This 100% sangiovese is such a beast. It is aged at least two years in wood, primarly French oak but also Slavonian oak, then further matured in the bottle for an additional 8-12 months before release.

Deep garnet color, soft and velvety mouthfeel yet intense and alive with spice, stone fruit notes and a hint of licorice that melded with the spices, tomatoes and cheese in the bold steak dish I tried it with. Retails for about $70.

2005 Collepino:

This sangiovese/merlot blend, part of the aforementioned Artist Series (signified by the original art on the labels, this one of the "pine hill" for which it is named) is young, bold and full of fresh fruit flavor. The wine delivers precisely what the nose promises, which is sometimes a hard characteristic to find.

A medium density, tending toward the lighter side. It's the sort of wine that is perfect with food in that it doesn't tire the palate and, thus, shorten the enjoyment of the meal. It is just being launched nationwide for a very reasonable $11 a bottle.

2006 Banfi Fumaio:

This sauvignon blanc/chardonnay blend has been selling for 20 years in Italy but is new to the U.S. market this year. Served cold, it is crisp and delightfully fruity with melon and apricot notes, perfectly in keeping with its light straw yellow color and fruity nose. Retails for $9.

2006 Rosa Regale DOCG:

This sparkling wine made exclusively from brachetto d'Acqui grapes is a low-alcohol (7%) treat. Its ruby color, small bubbles, nose of rose and fruit, and taste marked by strawberies and raspberries make it both a dessert wine and a food wine for lighter meals. It also combines well with chocolate samplers. Retails for $23.

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