Former Banfi president Harry Mariani dies

Former president of Banfi Vintners, Harry Mariani, who helped introduce Americans to Italian wine, has died in New York aged 78.

Harry Mariani (bottom right)

Harry Mariani (bottom right) with his son James, niece Cristina and brother John

As reported by Wine Spectator, Mariani was pivotal in bringing Italian wines to America and did much to ignite American consumers interest in Brunello.

Born in New York in 1937, Mariani joined the Italian food and wine import business founded by his father John Mariani Sr. in 1919 after graduating from university.

When John Sr. handed over control of the company in 1964, his brother John became CEO while Harry was made president.

In 1967 the pair traveled to Emilia-Romagna to visit a cooperative called Riunite with the aim of importing a Lambrusco tailored to American palates to the US.

The duo had high hopes for the sweet sparkling wine, dreaming it might becoming the Coca-Cola of wine in the US. Their dream came true – by 1983 Riunite was the number one imported wine in America, with Banfi bringing in 11 million cases of the sparkler into the country.

Spotting its potential as a region, in 1977 Harry and John bought 1,820 acres of land outside the town of Montalcino and established Castello Banfi.

“My father made a great contribution to wine culture and trade, and expanded the opportunity for consumers to try and enjoy a good bottle of wine, especially from Italy,” Harry’s son and current co-CEO of Banfi Vintners, James Mariani told WS.

Mariani is survived by his wife Anne, daughters Ginny Kitt and Katy Goodrich, and sons James and John, as well as eight grandchildren.

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