Cristina Mariani-May is family proprietor and co-CEO of Banfi Vintners, America’s leading wine importer, and the award winning Castello Banfi Vineyard Estate in Montalcino, Tuscany.
The youngest daughter of Banfi Chairman Emeritus John F. Mariani Jr., Cristina and her cousin James W. Mariani represent the third generation of family leadership in the company founded by their grandfather, John F. Mariani, Sr. in 1919. The 1978 founding and subsequent development of Castello Banfi is perhaps the family’s most ambitious endeavor.
Ms. Mariani-May is a graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, where she served as president of the student wine society. As an undergraduate, she studied at Georgetown’s campus in Florence, Italy and traveled with her father to meet the company’s foreign suppliers. She formally joined Banfi in 1993, assisting in the firm’s sales, marketing and public relations in order to gain an overview with which to develop long-term strategy.
Today, she makes frequent visits to Castello Banfi to review winemaking, hospitality, marketing and sales to over 85 countries around the world. She personally supervised the development and March 2007 opening of Castello Banfi – Il Borgo, a luxury hotel nestled alongside the estate’s medieval castle with swimming pool, cloistered garden and hearthside reading room to nurture guests. Il Borgo’s 14 rooms and suites round off Castello Banfi as a beacon for regional hospitality: it offers winery tours; a full service enoteca; balsamic cellars; il Museo housing ancient Roman glassware, Etruscan pottery unearthed beneath the castle itself, and the complete fossilized skeleton of a five million year old whale discovered on the vineyard estate. It also boasts a restaurant: the informal “Castello Banfi – La Taverna,” serving selections of traditional Tuscan dishes and delicacies.
Ms. Mariani-May has taken great pride in the research and innovation at Castello Banfi, which includes ground-breaking studies on clones of the Sangiovese grape to produce more consistently outstanding Brunello di Montalcino, the development of hybrid fermenters combining the advantages of stainless steel (hygiene and temperature control) with wood (imparting flavor and allowing for natural micro-oxygenation), more organic winegrowing, and the use of such techniques as nitrogen bottling, non-filtering for estate reserves and tangential filtration and electrodialysis for others to naturally stabilize wines and keep them lower in sulfites and histamines. Castello Banfi has been awarded Italy’s highest wine honor, the Premio Gran VinItaly, as “International Winery of the Year” an unprecedented four times and Italy’s top winery for 11 consecutive years.
Castello Banfi is also the First Winery in the World to be Awarded International Recognition for Exceptional Environmental, Ethical and Social Responsibility (ISO 14001 and SA8000) and International Leader in Customer Satisfaction (ISO 9001-2000).
Ms. Mariani-May lives in Old Brookville, New York with her husband, Marshall May and their three young children.