Castello Banfi is the flagship estate of Banfi Vintners, which is owned and operated by the Mariani family of New York. The privately-held Banfi Vintners was founded by John Mariani Sr. in New York in 1919 when he started importing European wines to the U.S. Today Banfi Vintners is run by his grandchildren and the enterprise includes a large portfolio of wine estates in Europe and elsewhere. Castello Banfi owns 7,000 acres, 2,000 of which are planted to grape vines. The estate also grows olives, wheat, truffles and plums. Castello Banfi makes many wines, but is known especially for its Brunello di Montalcino and Sangiovese. It also makes several Super Tuscans including its Summus and Excelsus Cabernet Sauvignon blends.
Brunello di Montalcino is regarded as one of Italy’s best appellations. Located in south central Tuscany below Chianti, the wines of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG are made of a Sangiovese clone called “brunello,” which means “little dark one,” a reference to the brown tones in the skin of the grape. Unlike some Tuscan appellations that allow other grapes to be blended with Sangiovese, Brunello di Montalcino is entirely Sangiovese. Montalcino itself is a picturesque, hill-top town not especially well known for wine production until the mid-19th century, when a local vineyard owner isolated the brunello clone and planted it. Other growers followed suit. Nevertheless it wasn’t until 1970s that wine enthusiasts started paying attention to Brunello di Montalcino, which by then was becoming an outstanding wine. Today there are 120 estates in the DOCG, up from about 25 estates in 1975. Brunellos in general are bigger, darker, more tannic and more powerful wines than Chiantis or most other Sangioveses. By law they must be aged for four years, and two of those years must be in wooden barrels.