Castello Banfi, Italy's most honored vineyard estate, has announced that it will release its top wines unfiltered effective with the 1999 vintage.
With this strategy, according to family proprietor Cristina Mariani, the estate's wines will better express their true fruit character and "terroir," a French term indicating a combination of soil, microclimate and other elements pertinent to a vineyard's location that influence the wine.
"There was a time when filtration was used to stabilize a wine and soften its tannins," said Ms. Mariani, "but filter pads work indiscriminately, and can also rob a wine of key flavor, structure and color elements. Instead, careful winemaking allows unwanted elements to precipitate naturally over the long course of barrel aging at low temperatures. We also achieve softer tannins through attentive selection in the vineyards as well as choices in the type and size of barrels for aging."
Unfiltered wines will now include the estates "Super Tuscan" cuvées SummuS, ExcelsuS, and Cum Laude; single-vineyard varietals Tavernelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Colvecchio Syrah and Mandrielle Merlot; as well as Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, its cru sibling Poggio alle Mura, and the Riserva Poggio all'Oro.
In addition to deeper color and richer flavor, unfiltered wines may leav a slight deposit of sediment in the bottle or glass, especially after years of aging. Today's wine consumer is not put off by sediment in a genuine, well made wine, according to Ms. Mariani. "In the past, they were likely to take a wine with sediment back to the store or restaurant as a problem. Today, more people know that it is not a defect, but rather a positive attribute."
"Basically, if you liked the wines of Castello Banfi before, you will love them even more from the 1999 vintage on," said Ms. Mariani. "And if you are in the camp that has encouraged us to take bold new steps in winemaking, we think you will be impressed as well."
Founded by U.S. wine merchants John and Harry Mariani of Banfi Vintners in 1978, Castello Banfi has been named the unprecedented four-time "International Winery of the Year" and eight-time "Italian Winery of The Year" at VinItaly's annual International Enological Concourse.