Harry F. Mariani of Huntington, whose Banfi Vintners in Old Brookville and Castello Banfi in Tuscany contributed to the introduction of Italian wine to generations of Americans, died on Jan. 5. He was 78.
Mariani was the former president of Banfi, a major importer that started with French and German wines. But the Italian-American family chose to emphasize Italian wines and, in so doing, upgraded the image of the wines.
Banfi eventually represented Biondi-Santi, producer of legendary Brunello di Montalcino. Banfi also was pivotal in the growth of Chilean wines here, with the Concha y Toro brand.
“The forerunner of quality imports,” said Michael Douglass, co-owner of Post Wines & Spirits in Syosset. “They have been a huge reason for the success of Italian wines, and they revolutionized Chilean wine in this country.” He described Mariani as “quiet and serious, and somebody everyone liked and trusted.”
The Banfi portfolio includes Riunite Lambrusco, the popular, sweet, sparkling red wine introduced in 1969. The success of Riunite propelled the establishment of Castello Banfi, whose wines include highly respected Brunello di Montalcino and “Super Tuscan” red blends. The wines of Bolla, Florio, Fontina Candida, Cecchi, and Sartori from Italy; Concha y Toro and Emiliana from Chile; and Wisdom & Warter sherry from Spain are among the Banfi imports.
Mariani was born and raised in Garden City. The son of Banfi founder John F. Mariani Sr., who named the company after his aunt Teodolinda Banfi, Harry F. Mariani graduated in 1955 from Garden City High School, where he was a center on the All-Scholastic Basketball Team of Long Island. He graduated from Colgate University in 1959 and became president of Banfi in 1964.
He and his brother, chairman emeritus, John Jr., significantly expanded the import company, which started in New York’s Little Italy in 1919, and has been headquartered in Old Brookville since 1981. They founded Castello Banfi of Montalcino and Vigne Regali in Piedmont.
Harry’s son James Mariani, and John’s daughter, Cristina Mariani-May, currently are the co-chief executive officers of Banfi.
Mariani was a former trustee of Colgate University; and was on the board of Huntington Hospital. The Mariani family received the Cornell University School of Hotel Adminstration’s “icon of the industry” award in 2014.
Mass will be offered for Mariani on Jan. 13 at 9:45 a.m. at the Church of St. Patrick in Huntington. Memorial services and visitation will be at the M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station on Jan. 11, 7 to 9 p.m., and Jan. 12, 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Burial will be private.
Mariani leaves his wife, Anne M. Mariani of Huntington; sister, Joan Whiting of Garden City; daughters Ginny M. Kitt of Lloyd Harbor and Katy M. Goodrich; sons James of Lattingtown and John of Garden City; and eight grandchildren
The Mariani family asks that memorial donations be made to Huntington Hospital to support its new emergency department.