I’m always hunting for delicious reds that over-deliver for price, and this darkly fruity, smooth 2010 Banfi Centine, a red blend from Tuscany, is one of them. I tasted the current vintage last month while judging at the annual Critics Challenge International Wine Competition (now in its ninth year). It won Best of Show trophy for reds in our final sweepstakes round, beating out bottles that cost six times as much.
The Centine label has been on best buy lists since the first vintage hit retail shelves more than 15 years ago. This was the first time, though, that I’d sampled it blind alongside such stiff competition. No, this 2010 isn’t subtle or complex or terroir-driven, but it does have surprising structure and depth, freshness and a dark cherry and berry taste, all of which go well with everything from hamburgers and steaks on the grill to pasta and pizza.
Banfi is best known for its famous — and pricey — Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcinos made from Sangiovese and Super Tuscan blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and sometimes Syrah. All are made at the spectacular family-owned 7,100-acre estate near the town of Montalcino in Tuscany. Its stunning medieval castle, parts of which date to the ancient Etruscans, overlooks forests, olive trees, orchards and vineyards. The dungeon is now the castle’s wine cellar. A luxury boutique hotel, glass museum, restaurant and wine bar welcome visitors.
The Italian-American Mariani family bought up the land to create this vast property about 30 years ago. They funded years of research to determine the best clones of Tuscany’s signature red grape Sangiovese, which makes up the majority of Centine Rosso. The expensive Castello Banfi wines only use the estate’s grapes, while some of the inexpensive ones in the Banfi Toscana line also rely on purchased grapes.
The Centine Rosso ages for a short time in oak and is bottled the spring after harvest to preserve the wine’s fruit and juiciness. Think of it as a baby Super Tuscan, one you can afford to drink everyday.