Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sangiovese Tasting with Rudy Buratti of Castello Banfi

Rudy Buratti, head winemaker of Castello Banfi, was in town for a tasting and trade seminar on Sangiovese clones. For a wine journalist, this was an opportunity to meet a well-known winemaker and potentially find some good wines to recommend. For a wine student, this was an opportunity to hear a lecture specific to the different grape clones and the varying terroir throughout Montalcino, which is, of course, home to some of Italy's greatest wines. For a wine geek, the opportunities seemed endless.

We started with a clonal tasting of the three primary Sangiovese clones used in the blend for Castello Banfi's Brunello di Montalcino wines. All were from the 2011 vintage and all were grown in the Casanova Vineyard. These were not wines that you wanted to drink, the spit/dump buckets were in full use, but rather components that were just there to compare for a moment. The Janus 50 had fruity aromas and was both tannic and acidic with a medium length. The Janus 10 was spicy, very tannic and had a long length. The BF 30 clone was floral and fruity with tobacco notes and a short length. With all things terroir being equal, the importance of clonal selection is undeniable as you taste the differences between Sangiovese grapes which were grown next to each other.


We followed this up with a tasting of wines from the same 2011 vintage which were created from the same field blend of grapes with each coming from a different vineyard with different soil types to showcase the influence of terroir. The wine from the Casanova Vineyard was structured and tannic. The wine from the Poggio D'Orcia Vineyard which sits on a hill above the river seemed more mature, it was softer and rounder with an almost sweet flavor but it finished quickly. The wine from the highest altitude Podernuovo Vineyard with its calcium rich soil was tannic with interesting aromas. The wine from the Sorrena Vineyard which sits on the sandy soils of the northern most part of the estate was a bit more rustic yet still fresh and fruity. Any guest who may have arrived to this tasting questioning the validity of the concept of terroir was converted into a believer by now, as the same grapes from the same weather vinified the same way with just a terroir tweak will make for some very different wines.

Rudy Buratti has been with Castello Banfi for over 30 years and his wine making philosophy is that a producer must respect the terroir and the character of the grape while bringing the style. In addition to his zonal studies on isolating the optimal clones for the estate's micro climates, his contribution  to the estate's style is also shown in the winery with his commitment to quality control and the design of some innovative wood and steel fermentation tanks which were patented by the Banfi wine making team.

We concluded the formal portion of the tasting and lecture with three Brunello di Montalcino wines, all of which, I would recommend:
  • 2008 Castello Banfi- Pronounced cherry and spice aromas and flavors. Full body, balanced structure with a bit of coffee in the finish.
  • 2007  Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura- Richer with a more powerful structure, similar aromas and flavors as above but riper with a spicier finish.
  • 2004 Poggio all' Oro- Licorice, tobacco, hazelnut with a touch of balsamic, very round with a long finish.