Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 26 October

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We head to Italy this week and the wines of Castello Banfi. The much-admired estate was founded in 1978 by brothers John and Harry Mariani, and remarkably boasts Europe’s biggest contiguous vineyard, stretching from Tuscany to Piedmont.

The 2018 Banfi ‘San Angelo’ Pinot Grigio (1) shows just how tasty this grape can be. I love, even adore Alsace Pinot Gris but all too often struggle with Italy’s notoriously naff interpretation, finding it flabby, dull and cloying. This, though, is spot on. Cool fermented and aged for two months in steel tanks, it’s crisp, clean and refreshing. Both peachy and citrusy, it makes a very amenable mid-morning or early evening invigorator. £14.50 down from £16.00.

The 2018 Banfi ‘Principessa Gavia’ Gavi (2) is similarly classy. Produced from Cortese grown in the Principessa Gavia single vineyard estate in Piedmont, it’s apple-fresh, zesty, vibrant and inviting. There’s a slight touch of creaminess and a nice savoury edge to the citrus-laden finish. £13.75 down from £15.00.

The 2018 Banfi ‘La Pettegola’ Vermentino (3) is Banfi’s latest white wine, named after the redshank which frolics along the Tuscan coast where the vineyards lie. It’s enticingly expressive with spice and herbs on the nose and plenty of weighty grapefruit, peach and apricot on the palate. Fine acidity keeps it fresh and lively. £14.00 down from £15.00.

The 2017 Banfi Chianti Classico (4) is textbook Chianti. Produced largely from Sangiovese with some Canaiolo, it’s cool fermented and aged for a minimum eight months in both oak barrel and steel vat. The result is hugely appealing, full of jammy plums, damsons, blackberries and sour cherries. Its high acidity makes it an excellent partner to all manner of grub (it was nigh on perfect with Mrs Ray’s chicken and spiced Sicilian sausage casserole last night, it’s such a shame you weren’t there) but its lightness of touch and soft tannins also make it quaffable on its own. £14.25 down from £17.00.

The 2017 Banfi Rosso di Montalcino (5) is produced from Sangiovese that grows in the vineyards that surround Castello Banfi itself and it’s a corker. Hand-picked grapes are fermented in unique steel/oak tanks, the resulting wine being aged for up to a year in oak barrels and barriques before spending a further six months in bottle. The result is deliciously complex with hints of cherries and plums along with smoky chocolate (if there is such a thing), coffee and spice. £17.50 down from £20.00.

For lovers of the quirky, the 2016 Banfi ‘La Lus’ Albarossa (6) is made in Piedmont entirely from said grape — Albarossa — which I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of until a few hours ago. Oh come on, don’t be like that, had you? Apparently, it’s a cross between Nebbiolo and Barbera, first created in the Veneto in 1938. And, well, it’s really rather tasty. Having never tried it before, I can’t judge it against anything, but suffice to say that it’s full of plummy dark fruit with plenty of brooding liquorice notes and softly textured spice. As I discovered with pleasure, it’s well worth a punt. £18.00 down from £21.00.

Finally, for lovers of sweet wines — and I’m a complete sucker for the stuff — we’ve the ridiculously delicious 2016 Banfi ‘Florus’ Moscadello di Montalcino (7). Made from late-picked Moscadello, a clone of Muscat that has been cultivated in and around Montalcino for centuries, it’s a blend of 85 per cent wine from 2016 and 15 per cent wine from 2015 that has been aged in French oak barriques for 12 months. And, goodness, it’s utterly gorgeous! Crammed as it is with honey, raisins, caramelised oranges and mangos, I defy you not to enjoy it too. £27.50 per 50cl down from £30.00.

The mixed case has two bottles each of wines 1-6. Wine 7 is available by the bottle with any other purchase from the offer.  Delivery, as ever, is free.

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Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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