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Castello Banfi Masterclass

‘My father only ever opens top wines when grandchildren appear,’ Cristina Mariani-May said of the formidable owner of Banfi, John Mariani, joking that he could never be persuaded to delve too deep into his cellar – that is until she named her first son after him. by Adam Lechmere

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The masterclass started with detailed descriptions of the land this legendary Tuscan estate sits on. Its ancient clay and calcium slopes were under the sea 40m years ago – a fact vividly illustrated by an photograph of a complete fossilised whale skeleton, dating from the Pliocene era 5m years ago, found in 2007 on the Banfi estate.

‘It was an incredibly important find,’ Mariani-May said, ‘and humbling in its way.’ She also described the complexity of the Sangiovese grape family, with its 450 clones, and the ‘consistent’ growing season that Tuscany is so fortunate to have – ‘but one problem can be the build up of heat’.

She then went on to show six wines from the estate, starting with the youngest, the 2004 Poggio Alle Mura, and ending with two extraordinary wines from Poggio All’Oro, the 95 and 90.

Brunello Poggio Alle Mura 2004

Very bright deep ruby with dark rim. Nose closed, not expressive. Lots of deep cherry notes, elegant and forward fruit. 04 was an outstanding, five-star vintage, Mariani-May said.

Brunello Poggio Alle Mura 2001

Deep ruby, very deep velvet red. Wonderful developed nose of leather and pencil shavings, cedary perfume. Palate developing juicy fresh tannins, with delicate blackberry/black cherry fruit. Delicious

Brunello Castello Banfi 1999

Deep ruby – velvetty red. Nose has earthy notes, old leather, some medicinal notes as well as licorice and cedar. Palate has really delicate smoke and spicy cherry and plum flavours. A wonderful deep palate but stops a little short.

Brunello Castello Banfi 1997

Very deep almost purple-black core with lighter red rim. Nose of cherry wood, licorice and some lanolin. Amazing astringency on the palate, with wonderful deep dark cherry fruit and exotic perfume. Tannins balanced and now quite dry

Brunello Riserva Poggio All’Oro 1995

Deep black core with light red rim. Massive opulent, five-star nose, deep scented oil, complex and vibrant. Complex juicy mouthwatering palate, tannins present and very correct. Smoke and aged cedar palate, smoky cherry, earth and wonderful autumn flavours. Utterly delicious

Brunello Riserva Poggio All’Oro 1990

Core getting lighter now, with light red rim. Rotted leathery nose, earthy, compost and some chlorine. Astringent, medicinal palate with very soft, receding tannins. An old, oxidised wine now in its fading years, still charming but moving into the ‘curiosity’ phase.

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