Rudy Buratti, Chief Winemaker for Castello Banfi, passed peacefully on January 13, 2018 at the age of 56 in Tuscany, Italy.
Born in Bleggio Superiore, Trento, Buratti graduated in 1981 from Italy’s prestigious Agricultural University of San Michele Alto Adige, one world’s premier enological schools. Upon graduation he decided to “go south” – as he liked to say with regional Italian pride – to serve an internship at the nascent Castello Banfi estate in Montalcino, Italy, “at least for a vintage or two to see if I could learn something.”
Buratti formally joined the winemaking team at Castello Banfi in 1983. Fittingly, one of his first duties at the renowned Tuscan vineyard estate was quality control – a concept that he, along with the winery’s American proprietors and Italian management, held in the highest regard, and arguably set them apart from the pack and explains the estate’s rapid historic success. In 1999 he was named Chief Winemaker, succeeding his long-time mentor Ezio Rivella. At the time of his passing, Buratti oversaw nine managers and 50 cellar workers, enjoying a direct rapport with the Mariani family proprietors of Castello Banfi. His team and his colleagues in the winemaking community noted his untiring efforts and unwavering leadership at the winery; those who witnessed his presentations both directly in Italian and through translators could not help but be mesmerized by his “evangelical passion” for the Sangiovese grape, Brunello wine, the unique terroir of Montalcino, and the groundbreaking leadership of Castello Banfi.
Buratti was part of the original team that isolated and registered 15 optimal clones of the Sangiovese vine to make consistently outstanding Brunello di Montalcino tailored to the micro-climate of the Castello Banfi estate, where he supervised “zonation” studies designed at pairing grape varieties to ideal soils and sites on the domain. He was also a co-author, together with colleagues at Banfi and professors from the universities of Pisa and Milan, of The Pursuit of Excellence, a 444-page case study detailing Banfi’s research and development over the past three decades.
Most recently, Buratti led Castello Banfi through its third technological makeover since its dedication in 1984, overseeing development of “Horizon,” a new micro-vinification area for the estate’s top wines, including the creation of new and innovative wood and steel fermentation tanks developed and patented by the Banfi winemaking team to incorporate the best features of each material. Buratti also implemented a move away from filtration for Castello Banfi’s top estate wines and an upgrade of filtration systems for premium wines to enhance individual expression and flavor.
Buratti is survived by his wife, Ursula Ciola, and two daughters.
Joe Janish is Director of Public Relations for Banfi Vintners, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and a veteran of the wine industry for over 20 years. He launched one of the first wine blogs back in 1997, the now-defunct “Wine Dictator,” and cut his teeth on his grandfather’s homemade wine. He still keeps a copy of Wine for Dummies nearby for reference.