Cristina Mariani-May is President and Chief Executive Officer of leading US wine importer Banfi Vintners and family proprietor of the internationally renowned Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany.
The youngest daughter of Banfi Chairman Emeritus, John F. Mariani, Jr., Ms. Mariani-May, represents the third generation of family leadership in the company founded by her grandfather, John Mariani, Sr. in 1919. Soon after completing her studies at Georgetown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, Mariani-May joined Banfi in 1993.
The “pursuit of excellence” serves as a personal mantra for Mariani-May. An accomplished marathon runner and swimmer, she notes that many of her best ideas comes during early morning workouts, and finds that the self-discipline, determination and endurance demanded of a long-distance runner equally apply to sustained and successful business leadership.
Mariani-May’s directives to elevate performance and establish new goals in customer satisfaction, environmental and social responsibility resulted in Castello Banfi’s becoming, in 2006, the first winery in the world to achieve ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and SA 8000 certification for leadership in these areas.
Innovations at Castello Banfi under her watch include the culmination of pioneering clonal research on the Sangiovese grape variety. The three decade project resulted in Banfi’s registering six new clones now also available to neighboring producers, earning the moniker “Builders of Brunello” for Mariani family. Banfi’s innovation also extends to inside the winery, where in 2007 it patented a specialized fermentation tank that is a hybrid of stainless steel (for cleanliness) and wood (for micro-oxygenation). Other developments under Mariani-May’s guidance are aimed at environmental sustainability, such as a “bio-bed” system developed to purify waste water, rainwater-sourced, variable flowrate micro-irrigation, and lightweight glass bottles. For these and other initiatives, Mariani-May was named one of “The Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” by Fortune and Food & Wine magazines in 2015.
An engaging, charismatic speaker and natural ambassador for Italian wines, Mariani-May’s travels bring her to many of the nearly 100 countries where Castello Banfi wines are sold, and in so doing she has helped transform Montalcino into a destination for wine lovers. Castello Banfi has become a beacon of Tuscan hospitality as the region’s most visitor-friendly estate, with daily wine tours, an enoteco-wine bar, fine dining Taverna Banfi and Castello Banfi – Il Borgo, a 14-room luxury hotel nestled alongside the estate’s medieval castle walls.
“We are offering not just wine,” she notes, “but a way of life. It’s about something slower, calmer, more in touch with family.”
Mariani-May’s immediate family includes her husband, Marshall May, and their three young children. A hands-on mother, she divides her time between Montalcino and Long Island, NY, home to Banfi Vintners.