Marathon Woman: Banfi Vintners’ Cristina Mariani-May

Over the years, the name Banfi has become one of the top names when talking about Italian wines. Yet, Banfi Vintners, founded in 1919 by John Mariani, and now run by third generation family members Cristina Mariani-May and her cousin James, is actually an American company, started right in New York City. So how did a little NY importing company that had the misfortune of starting a wine importing business a year before Prohibition (it survived, of course) grow to become one of the true icons in the world of wine?

Cristina Mariani-May
Cristina Mariani- May juggles overseeing Banfi’s extensive holdings, making appearances, motherhood and running marathons with skill.

Well, somewhere in the second half of the last century, second generation owners Harry and John Jr. hit on an idea for bringing in a slightly sweet refreshing little wine made from the Lambrusco grape called Riunite, which so beguiled U.S consumers that it launched Banfi to the top of the wine importation game and cemented its place in the wine world unlike any other wine had in the past. “Riunite on ice, that’s nice.” We all know the slogan.

And it was the success of that wine which allowed the Mariani brothers to purchase a dilapidated winery property in Tuscany, outside the fairly unknown town of Montalcino in the 1970’s called Poggio Alle Mura, which they renovated and turned into Castello Banfi, now one of the wine making jewels of not just Brunello di Montalcino, the famous wine from the hillsides surrounding the town where Castello Banfi is situated, but all of Tuscany.

The majestic Castello Banfi in Montalcino

Over the years Banfi vintners has expanded its reach to other parts of Italy, and their Italian portfolio is unmatched in that country’s wine making circles. But Banfi has also branched out into South America, and the United States, with their Exelsior Wine Company, a partnership with Chilean powerhouse producer Concha y Toro to import Chilean and Argentine wines to the U.S., ands also market a handful of California wines in the marketplace. The most recent endeavor of Banfi Vintners has been a reach into Washington State and Oregon, two of this country’s biggest new production regions.

We can’t wait to talk shop with Co-CEO Cristina Mariani-May on Wednesday January 20, 2016 at 2:00pm ET to find out more about her amazing family’s wines, legacy, and future.



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