Sally Benjamin introduces the evening's guest speaker
Sally Benjamin introduces the evening’s guest speaker

T onight was full of surprises. Not that the wines were quite spectacular but who produced them. Not too long ago many mass produced Italian wines being sold in the US were not very good. Serious wine drinkers would laugh at the mention of their names…. Bolla for one. But not anymore. Along comes Banfi who purchased 2/3’s of Bolla and as part of the deal took control of the flavor profiles of the wines. Now three years later and Bolla is now producing great wines again.

And that made Avery Harris’s job as the evening’s presenter a lot easier. It’s always easy when you can present some great wines. Harris, is Banfi’s district manager for the Carolinas.

He was at Wine World for a “Wines of Banfi” seminar, presenting 10 different wines. For some wine lovers “Wines of Banfi” might be a bit confusing because Castello Banfi has been producing great wines for years but the other 7 wines are from different wineries.

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Banfi actually has American roots and didn’t start as a wine producer. The Banfi Vintners, an import company, was founded in 1919 by Connecticut-born John ( Giovanni) Mariani, Sr., who spent a decade of his youth in Italy under the tutelage of his aunt Teodolinda Banfi and named the company after her. In the 1950’s, Giovanni’s sons John and Harry joined and expanded Banfi. They studied the French model to raise the level of Italian wines on the world stage. About that time the Cantine Cooperative Riunite was created to unite small and large winemakers in the Emilia region in making world class wines. Benfi brought the Riunite label to the US and quickly made it America’s favorite Italian wine. They have continued to grow and are one of the top 10 importers in the US.

Banfi, under the leadership of the Mariani family, made themselves known in Italy for shaking things up and pushing the vineyards they own, as well as other vintners, to improve the winemaking culture that was set in its ways. Centuries of tradition, according to Harris, was keeping vintners and the Italian government locked into practices that was putting Italy behind in the world market.

As described on their website “Banfi has pioneered clonal research on the Sangiovese vine to produce a more consistently excellent Brunello di Montalcino, and reduced sulfites and histamines through more organic winemaking. Technological advances, including customized cooperage for more balanced wines, nitrogen bottling to eliminate the addition of sulfites, electro-dialysis to allow flavors to emerge, and development of fermenters that combine both stainless steel and wood, are balanced with a profound respect for tradition and deep expression of the local terroir and microclimate. In the end, at Castello Banfi, winemaker and nature partner to allow the wine’s natural pedigree to emerge in artful expression.”

Harris pointed out that Banfi only represents wines that are family owned. “They don’t want stockholders or a board of directors putting profits ahead of making quality wines.”

Bolla was a label that was producing some very marginal wines. The Bolla Le Poiane Valpolicella Classico 2009 is the second vintage under the Mariani’s influence and it shows. It’s $17.99 price makes it very appealing.

The wines for the evening also show how Italy is starting to use New World techniques in wine production. The Sartori Ferdi is made using techniques no other wine producer in Italy is using.

The Banfi Pinot Grigio is probably one of the finest Pinot Grigio this taster has ever had. Full of flavor and well balanced. Well worth its $19.99 price.

Another wine that Harris considers to be a good everyday wine is the Centine Rosso. Their original baby Super Tuscan this is a really nice wine especially at a 11.99 price point. He said he entered this wine and the Banfi Belnero in a blind judging in Charleston and they tied for best-in-show for red wines.

If you weren’t able to make this tasting I would recommend you explore this wine list and try them for yourself.

The wines from the evening with tasting notes from their websites are below.

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Where: Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta, SC

When: Friday, June 8, 2012, 7pm.
Cost: $15.

  1. Maschio Prosecco Brut NV
  2. Banfi Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” 2011
  3. Sartori Ferdi 2010
  4. Fontana Candida Frascati “Luna Mater” Superiore Secco DOC 2009
  5. Banfi Centine Rosso 2010
  6. Bolla Le Poiane Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Ripasso 2009
  7. Val delle Rose Morellino de Scanscano 2008
  8. Banfi Belnero Sangiovese 2009
  9. Chianti Classico Riserva “Villa Cerna” 2007
  10. Sartori Amarone della Valpolicella 2008

Here are the detailed wine notes:

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Maschio Prosecco Brut NV
Maschio Prosecco Brut embodies the finest traditions of Prosecco while accommodating modern, sophisticated tastes.  Produced using 100% of the ancient Glera grape.  Full sparkling white wine, 11% alcohol by volume. Serve at 42° F to 54°F. This is a sparkling wine that is light straw yellow in color with a lively froth; a bouquet of white beach and orange blossoms; and fruit forward with peach and almond flavors.–From their Website
From: NV Treviso DOC, Italy
Winery: Maschio
Year: NV
Goes with: Maschio Prosecco Brut makes an ideal aperitif and also pairs wonderfully with antipasto and hors d’oeuvres, light fish dishes, sushi and sashimi, fresh fruit, and pastries.

Banfi Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” 2011
This wine is a light straw yellow in color with a. bouquet that is very fresh and fruity with pear, banana, peach, anise and honey notes. The taste is rich, full, round and very persistent.  This 100% Pinot Grigio belongs to Castello Banfi estate-bottled single-varietals range. Thanks to the Montalcino microclimate our Tuscan Pinot Grigio adds to the typical aromas of this variety an unusual body, flavor and balance.–From their Website

According to Harris this is not a Tuscany grape. People thought they were crazy because the climate is generally too warm to produce it (that’s why it has a IGT designation). But with the Mediterranean only 20 miles away the cooling sea breezes produces cool nights that make it possible.

From: Toscano IGT, Italy
Winery: Castello Banfi
Year: 2011
Grapes: 100% Pinot GrigioGoes with: Excellent as aperitif. It accompanies well light dishes and fish in general.

Sartori Ferdi 2010
Brilliant yellow diamond in color, this voluptuous ‘Super White’ offers enticing aromas of pears and apricots with subtle floral notes. It is rich and flavorful on the palate, with a long finish. The winery is named after the mercenary vineyard guardians, known in native dialect as saltari, hired by vineyard owners from the 16th through the 18th centuries to protect their grapes from thieves and bandits. With legal authority to shoot grape thieves on sight, the Saltari were ready defenders of the vineyards. The choice of the name reflects the winery’s own dedication to defending tradition and expressing these vineyards’ unique terroir.–From their Website
From: Bianco Veronese IGT (Garganega), Italy
Winery: Sartori
Year: 2010

Fontana Candida Frascati “Luna Mater” Superiore Secco DOC 2009
A light, tasty wine with a dry, crisp finish that’s built on a zesty citrus backbone. Fontana Candida Frascati is the most popular Frascati in the world and has been a staple of Roman culture for almost 2,000 years.
The grapes for this dry, clean wine are grown in the porous, volcanic soils located in the Frascati commune near Rome. Rich in potassium, this soil produces plump flavorful grapes. Fontana Candida is the only Frascati producer that uses cold filtration and cold bottling to preserve the wine’s flavor and clarity.–From their Website
From: Italy
Winery: Fontana Candida
Year: 2009
Goes with: This easy-to-drink wine pairs well with salads, pasta, veal, chicken, vegetable soups, mild seafood dishes and mild cheeses.

Banfi Centine Rosso 2010
The grapes are vinified with a brief maceration. Once the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations are completed, the wine is aged for a short period in small oak barrels and bottled in the Spring following the harvest. An appropriate bottle aging follows.
The color is intense ruby red with youthful hints with a bouquet that is intense, vinous and spicy in which the Tuscan character of the Sangiovese is perfectly married with the international character of the Cabernet and Merlot. The taste has a gentle approach, soft, easy-to-drink.
From the winemaker’s notes they say “the best tradition of the Sangiovese grape in Tuscany that, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, allows a youthful and intensely fruity blend. The ideal companion of simple dishes but also suitable for more complex matches.”–From their Website
From: Toscano IGT, Italy
Winery: Banfi
– Roasts, game and medium aged cheese.
Year: 2010
Grapes: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.
Bolla Le Poiane Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Ripasso 2009
This Valpolicella is made using the famed Ripasso method, a technique of refermenting the wine on fresh Amarone skins delivering a complex, multi-layered texture and flavor to the wine.  Deep ruby red in color with notes of black pepper and spice, this wine is velvety and exceptionally well balanced with black-cherry flavors. Delicious with steaks, chops, stews and rich pastas.–From their Website
From: Veneto, Italy
Winery: Bolla
Year: 2009

Val delle Rose Morellino de Scanscano 2008
The perfect representation of Sangiovese from the Maremma, here blended with other complementary grapes. The vines enjoy the best climatic conditions, steady breezes balanced with an almost continuous exposure to the sun. The excellent level of grape maturity and the modest yield per hectare ensure elegant and well structured wines.
Vinification begins with cold pre-fermentation maceration and is then followed by a temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel. This is followed by a few months aging in French oak barrels and subsequent bottle refinement. Val delle Rose Morellino di Scansano has a bright red color with violet hues. The aroma is fruity, with intense notes of wild cherry that are typical of this varietal. They add a richness and pleasant sharpness. On the palate, it is smooth and full flavored with ample body and supple tannins.–From their Website
From: Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
Winery: Val delle Rose (Cecchi)
Year: 2008

Banfi Belnero Sangiovese 2009
The alcoholic fermentation of the grapes lasts for 8/12 days at 24°-26°C until the last 3 days when the temperature is brought up to 30°C. Once completed this first phase we proceed with the malolactic fermentation that takes place in French oak barrique where the wine is aged for a long period. An appropriate bottle fining follows. The color is intense and deep mauve red. Bouquet: gentle aromas with notes of vanilla, tobacco and coffee, and also fruity hints of cherry jam and prunes. Taste: powerful structure with soft and well balanced tannins.

The winemaker’s notes say Belnero is the expression of the solid and indissoluble connection of Castello Banfi with Montalcino territory. This wine celebrates the experience and passion behind Castello Banfi’s 30-year pursuit of excellence in the vineyard as well as in the winery. Belnero is driven by the Sangiovese grape, the emblematic varietal of Montalcino tradition that was studied and perfected through Banfi’s decades of research, and complemented with small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which find on our estate in southern Tuscany their most favorable habitat. BelnerO, with its powerful and well balanced structure, is ideal for a long aging.–From their Website

From: Tuscany, Italy
Winery: Castello Banfi
Year: 2009
Grapes: Sangiovese with small percentages Cabernet Sauvignon & MerlotGoes with: Ideal with soups, grilled meat and medium aged cheeses.

Chianti Classico Riserva “Villa Cerna” 2007
Lively, ruby-red color, tending toward garnet with age. Delicate bouquet of violets and iris. Soft and round taste. The name “Villa Cerna” first appears in a document dating back to February 4, 1001, narrating the dedication of this one-time monastery near Siena. With 310 acres of land, 183 planted with vines, the estate rests on a hilly terrain at an average altitude of 950 feet above sea level. A dry and moderately breezy microclimate nurtures the native Sangiovese grapes to ideal maturity. Traditional fermentation on the skins for 21 days is followed by 14 months in barriques and small oak barrels and at least 10 months of bottle aging.–From their Website
From: Tuscany, Italy
Winery: Cecchi
Year: 2007
Grapes: Sangiovese 95%, Colorino Toscano 5%.
Goes with: Ideal with red meats, roasts and cheese.

Sartori Amarone della Valpolicella 2008
Rich garnet-red in color. Unique dried-fruit bouquet, with hints of ripe plum and spice. Deep and full-bodied with luscious berry flavors and a dry finish.–From their Website
From: Veneto, Italy
Winery: Sartori
Year: 2008


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