DAY 5 of 5 – Italy
Poggio Alle Mura – 0 km
What’s it like to wake up in the middle of one of the world’s most esteemed vineyards? And in addition, with a castle that rises up behind the vines? One word… amazing!
The hills around Montalcino have been the cradle of winemaking culture since the time of the Etruscans.
Castello Banfi’s estate stretches south west of Montalcino for 2,830 hectars. It’s immense!
The property encompasses the castle and village, the restaurant, pub, wine shop, the old balsameria (where balsamic vinegar is made), the museum of glass and bottles, huge wine cellars, and dozens and dozens of vineyards – going as far as the eye can see.
Elizabeth, the Project Director of Castello Banfi, shows us around the vineyards. And it’s here, in the middle of the vines, that we begin to discover the world of Banfi.
“Other than the Sangiovese and Moscadello, the two oldest and most traditionally produced wine varieties from this area, we also produce the major internationally known varieties – which work perfectly in this exceptional habitat”.
“Our soil has extremely rich and varied properties. The presence of clay and calcium favours optimum vine growth, and helping to create incredibly complex red wines, whilst the stony soil contributes to rounded, aromatic white wines, giving them that typical earthy scent.”
A deep red colour with garnet undertones. A full-bodied and rich smell, with scents of plum jam, coffee, cocoa, and a light balsamic note. Powerful, with mature, gentle tannins that give it a velvet, harmonious finish.
We present to you Poggio alle Mura – Brunello di Montalcino Reserve 2007 DOCG, 2007 (exceptional vintage).
Tasting this masterpiece right here in its own vineyard and Castello Banfi is a thrilling experience.
Elizabeth explains the typology of the ground that the Poggio alle Mura – Brunello di Montalcino Reserve DOCG vines grow on.
“The vines grow on soil that is yellowish-brown, sandy, rough, chalky; with a substratum with sandy marine sediments originating from the Pliocene era; stony, smooth”.
And it’s on this magical earth that we sit down and continue sipping this excellent wine, Poggio alle Mura – Brunello di Montalcino Reserve DOCG.
All around Castello Banfi there’s a constellation of single vineyards, all at different heights, in different positions and with different exposures, covering three dozen different subsoil types.
The different terrains have been carefully matched to the different varieties of grape, both local and international, in order to enhance the characteristics of each wine.
We run our fingers across a bunch of grapes which will be hand-picked in a few month’s time, and masterfully transformed into a highly sought-after wine. We take a last sip of our drink and head for Castello Banfi’s wine cellars.
At Castello Banfi, they say, “If the vineyards are the soul of Castello Banfi, the wine cellar is without a doubt the heart”.
The purpose of the cellar originally was to preserve the flavour and richness of the grapes as much as possible. Today, it uses advanced technology – the pinnacle of modern technological experimentation.
Soft lighting; maximum security; casks, both small and enormous; and sampling areas for the expert wine tasters. More than a cellar, this seems more like a vault – and in fact, it is. It’s well justified –Castello’s treasure is kept here after all. Tonnes of fine wine.
In front of Castello there’s a wine bar. Dating back to medieval times, it was previously used as a wine depository.
It has been recreated as an authentic Tuscan shop, where you can find local artisan produce alongside the fine wines.
Here you can sample an excellent local pecorino cheese and a classic Tuscan ham, accompanied by a wine from the estate.
Everyone heads to the very characteristic Taverna Banfi for lunch. Situated in the vaults of the Castello’s old cellars, this was once the place where huge barrels of Brunello di Montalcino aged.
We’re served typical Montalcino and Tuscan dishes, which are enhanced by the freshness and simplicity of the locally sourced ingredients.
One course follows another, as does the excellent wine that is carefully paired to it. Our tastebuds are enjoying themselves more than ever.
Duck confit in a breadcrumb crust served on a small spelt salad
Pici pasta in a boar ragù
Sliced fillet of Chianina beef served with rocket, cherry tomatoes and slivers of pecorino cheese
Coffee flavoured semifreddo with sambuca custard
In the shadows of the walls and towers of Castello Banfi lies a village dating back to the 18th century. Here, we find rooms and suites that have been elegantly and uniquely furnished.
From the swimming pool, guests can enjoy a magnificent view both of the vineyards and the castle. It’s the ideal place to recharge body and soul whilst admiring the Tuscan landscape.
Sunset is approaching, and we decide to watch it from the middle of the vineyard. We look for the best spot. Finding it, we wait.
We watch the sun as it lowers itself towards the horizon, and observe how the light plays with the leaves of the vines.
There’s the moon… and a kiss. Magical.
If the castle has us spellbound by day, it has truly enchanted us by night.
Castello Banfi doesn’t just have one pub for lunch; it’s also home to an exclusive, star-ranked restaurant.
Trying their tasting menu, all of our senses are in harmony.
Prawns with almonds, red onions and aubergine, paired with San Angelo Pinot Grigio 2013
“Castello” tagliolini pasta with squid and vegetables and a citrus infusion, paired with Fontanelle Chardonnay 2013
Braised beef ravioli with potato slivers, paired with ExcelsuS Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot 2010
Lamb with potato slivers, paired with Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Reserve 2007
Milk and chocolate crisp with gianduia (chocolate), paired with Florus Moscadello di Montalcino
After an incredible meal and evening, we gave our compliments to the chef and staff who worked impeccably all night.
What a day!
If you’d like to be part of a fairytale, come to Castello Banfi. That’s how it was for us: a fairytale.
The lights start to go out in the agriturismo in the vineyard. We cast one last gaze at the Castello, which from here seems to wave between the stars.