Saturday, April 28, 2012

Report from … Lunch with Banfi – April 20, 2012

Enrico Viglierchio
There are few lunches you want to miss less than a lunch where you get to taste through an array of Banfi wines (Italy) … on this Friday afternoon I came into Toronto to do just that.  So let’s get right into it.  Eight wines were tasted plus a delicious lunch prepared by the chef’s at Bravi Ristorante (40 Wellington Street) and hosted by Enrico Viglierchio – General Manager of Banfi and Export Manager Javier Rodriguez.

We kicked off with a vintage bubbly from one of their newest projects: Vigna Regali in the Alta Langa region – a region dedicated to Sparkling wine in the traditional method.  The 2008 Cuvee Aurora Rosé ($24.95) is a wine made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes aged in bottle for 24 months.  Interesting to note that the final make up of the wine is made up of 90% current vintage wine and 10% of previous vintage wine aged in barrel, giving the wine a firmer mouthfeel.  This is a very satisfying sparkler with strawberry, black cherry with a slight earthy quality yet is light and refreshing … great finish and nice acidity. (****+)

2008 La Lus Albarossa (****)
Sticking with the Vigna Regali line of wines our next wine was the 2008 La Lus Albarossa ($23.95) … a bottle of red made from the new Albarossa grape grown in the Piedmont region.  Albarossa is a crossed between Nebbiolo and Barbera – the two main grapes of Piedmont …Albarossa means “red dawn” – and because there is such an interest in this new grape it’s the dawning of a new era for Piedmontese winemakers.  10 years ago there was only 1 hectare planted, today there is between 50-60 hectares on its way to 100 or more.  The wine is deep and rich with cherry and cranberry notes on the nose and cherry, strawberry and spiced oak on the palate … it has great acidity and a long finish.  A gentle wine with plenty of fruit … juicy and delicious.  Keep an eye peeled for  this is one because you’ll want to pick up a few. (****)

Moving to the mother line we started with the Banfi 2009 Rosso di Montalcino ($22.95) a wine made from 100% Sangiovese aged 12 months in French oak with an additional 6 months of ageing in bottle.  And because the wine is aged in older oak barrels it keeps the fresh, fruity character of the wine intact.  Earthy, raspberry, sour cherry, good acidity and a cranberry finish. Elegant on the palate with fine but firm tannins. (*** ½+)

The real treat (like everything before this hasn’t been) came with a vertical of the Banfi Brunello di Montalcino: 2004, 2006 and 2007 ($32.95) … selected because of their similarity in vintage.  The real difference here is that in 2007 Banfi changed some of the vinification and viticulture practices, and it really has made all the difference.  All three wines were delicious in their own right but the 2007 had a depth of flavour and full fruited-ness not found in the other two.  2004 (****) – 2006 (*** ½+) – 2007 (****+)

2007 Alle Mura (**** 1/2)
Sticking with the ’07 vintage we tasted the home vineyard wine of Poggio Alle Mura – Brunello di Montalcino ($69.95), a 100% Sangiovese that is aged in barrel for 2 years, than another 2 years in bottle …fruit comes from the 60 hectare Poggio Alle Mura vineyard.  The nose is plum, black cherry, and blackberry; basically it’s full of ripe dark fruit. The palate is complex and intriguing giving the tongue a taste of both red and black fruits, balanced acidity and a stunning length of finish.  This wine is super-rich, balanced, and delicious with never a dull sip. (**** ½)

The 2006 Poggio All’Oro – Brunello di Montalcino Riserva seemed a little lean after the fullness of the Alle Mura, but I’m gonna chalked that up to the change in viti- and vini- culture techniques and look forward to trying the 2007 version of this wine (*** ½)

The last two wines are the IGT wines, those that use international grape varieties.  Starting with the 2007 Summus ($59.95) a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Syrah (20%), the rest being the homegrown Sangiovese.  The nose is plum, cocoa, blackberry with slight brambly notes and white pepper.  Palate has lots of peppery spice, blackberry, and rich plum – spice is carried right through to the finish and stays around a good long while. Peppery plays a big part in the enjoyment of this wine (****+).  We ended our tasting with the 2007 Excelsus ($79.95) the only one in the line with nary a drop of Sangiovese, it’s all Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  This one seemed almost Australian in style but with great balancing acidity and toned down spiciness.  The alcohol is a whopping 14.5% and its rich, juicy and jammy with lots of dark fruit and spiced mocha notes (**** ½).

So what have we learned … the style of Banfi wines has changed … they are getting richer more concentrated wines and in my books they are real winners – look for Banfi 2007s and beyond to keep these same characteristic.  As for lunch… pictures are below.

Arugula Salad: honey crisp apples, shaved pecorino, toasted pistachio, lemon vinaigrette
Spaghetti Carbonara: smoked bacon, onions, black pepper, egg yolk shaved pecorino

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