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Banfi: “Quality is fundamental”

Brunello specialist Castello Banfi has carved out an enviable reputation for its wines, with strict quality control fundamental to the team. Ahead of the publication of  The Master Winemaker 100, db talks to the winemakers behind the legendary wine. 

Banfi oenologist Matteo Bagnoli, winemaker Gabriele Pazzaglia and oenologist Marica Mencarelli

“Quality is fundamental. It is our goal, what we have always worked for, and we will continue to work for,” Banfi oenologist Marica Mencarelli explains.

Between them, the winemaking team at Banfi — winemaker Gabriele Pazzaglia (pictured above centre) and oenologists Mencarelli and Matteo Bagnoli — have clocked up more than 65 years’ experience in winemaking, working until 2018 under the auspices of chief winemaker Rudy Buratti, himself the protégé of Ezio Rivella, the man credited with putting Brunello’s wines on the map.

As part of this devotion to quality, the team uses a variety of analysis techniques in its advanced analysis laboratory, including the Foss WineScan, from Danish company FOSS, along with distillation, enzymatic analysis and high performance liquid chromatography, an analytical chemistry technique used to separate, identify, and quantify each component in the wine.

“For Banfi, a company that processes large quantities of grapes, analytical control is an indispensable tool for reducing the incidence of human error in a stressful period such as the harvest, thus increasing the quality of our wines,” Bagnoli explains.

“Constant monitoring allows us to follow the vinifications correctly, and we always monitor the fermentation progress from an oenological and, above all, microbiological point of view.”

It is, as Mencarelli notes “essential” to analyse the wines. “Intuition and tasting cannot be a single monitoring element but must always be supported by precise and in-depth analyses,” she says. “For us who do a long period of aging in wood, for example, the role of oxygen in wines is increasingly important, and we also need to keep the sulphur levels lower.”

Pazzaglia notes: “In recent years, controls relating to the wholesomeness of wines are becoming very important, from allergens to SO2 to in-depth controls on the corks being purchased. In fact, before buying a batch of corks, we carry out anisole-release analyses, and physical analyses to determine the corks’ quality: on our Brunellos and Super Tuscans, the corks must have no problems.”

It is this attention to detail that has helped Banfi scoop several Masters in the drinks business’s Global Masters Series, including a Tuscan Masters in 2019 for its Excelsus 2015, and one in the Spring Blind Tasting 2021 for its Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino 2016.

Exceptional wines

As a result, the trio have been included in the upcoming second edition of the drinks business’s Master Winemaker 100, which launches at Wine Paris in February.

The guide celebrates the talented cellar-based people crafting exceptional wines – those deemed Wine Masters by judges who are themselves Masters
of Wine.

“It is a great privilege to be included in the Master Winemaker 100 for the second time in such a short period,” Gabriele Pazzaglia tells db. “If the first time was a surprise, this is confirmation that the way we worked in the past and what we do now is the right path to follow.”

And as he notes, not all competitions are created equal “The Global Masters Series has a huge reputation worldwide, thanks to the publication it refers to, and also to its MW judges,” he points out. This not only “adds value” to the wine itself, but also helps to boost brand awareness
among consumers, while also underlining its undoubted quality.

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