Friday, March 8, 2019

Centuries of traditions with the Ricasoli family of Castello di Brolio

Tuscany is one of the most loved and admired regions of Italy and for many obvious reasons including its indescribable landscape, simple but flavorful cuisine and some of Italy’s top quality wines.  I think I’ve been in denial for a long time as it is hard to claim a favorite of mine when it comes to Italian wine, but the sangiovese grape has always held a special place in my heart.  Anytime I have an opportunity to try a sangiovese based wine I can pop the cork fast enough.  Today I’m sharing two fantastic wines from a very historical wine family of Tuscany and Italy as a whole, the Ricasoli family. 

The Winery 
The Brolio castle is situated in the town of Gaiole in Chianti, one of the main comunes of chianti classico.  This castle over the centuries has endured the Second World War and countless battles and therefore has been restored over the years and bares the main different time periods it has endured.   
brolio castle in gaiole in chianti
Brolio castle copyright of Barone Ricasoli
 Since 1993 Francesco Ricasoli, owner and President, has been leading the winery and is the 32nd generation Baron of Brolio.  Francesco is carrying the torch of quality representing the generations and histories of winemaking in the Ricasoli family, but also doing so with a modern twist and pushing the limits on his renovation of vineyards, thorough research on soils (19 discovered on the property) and clones of sangiovese grown on the estate.  This has resulted in clones unique to Brolio and grown in the newest vineyards and are listed in the National Grape Registry of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies of Italy. 

Francesco’s great-grandfather, Barone Bettino Ricasoli, twice Prime Minister, is also the one whom formulated the recipe for chianti classico in 1872.  there is documentation supporting that the family had been exporting wine since the 1600’s to select countries and later worldwide by the beginning of the 1900’s.   

The winery is spread over 3,000 acres with over 500 of them planted solely to the sangiovese grape. Sangiovese is the primary grape grown on the property, but they are also grown international varieties like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and others. 
Brolio winery of Barone Ricasoli in Chianti Classico
Brolio landscape in Chianti Classico copyright of Barone Ricasoli
I met Giovanni Ricasoli some years back when I tried the wines from the family’s wine estate, Castello di Cacchiano.  Last week I shared a certified organic wine of Italy and we talked about the differences between organic and biodynamic wine.  Although not certified,  Ricasoli practices sustainability and engage in a way that provides a lower environmental impact to the land of which they have always respected.   

The Land 
Gaiole in Chianti is within the heart of Tuscany.  Amongst the vineyard and olive groves is a fortified town of many beautiful castles, including the Brolio castle, churches and towers that have withheld many power struggles of the prominent families of Tuscany including the Ricasoli and Medici families. 
chianti classico wine region
Copyright of Consorzio of Chianti Classico
The Grape 
If one isn’t familiar what sangiovese is, it’s the primary grape used in the production of chianti amongst other grapes.  By law in order to be labeled a Chianti Classico wine it must fall within the designated territories within Tuscany and must follow other regulations.  One of those is that the wine must be made of at a minimum of 80% sangiovese with the option of adding other native grapes including mammolo, colorino and canaiolo nero and an option of adding international varieties like merlot or cabernet sauvignon.  For the wine to be labeled a riserva it must age at least 24 months with 3 of those months within the bottle.   

Another easy way to determine a chianti classico by sight is the famed gallo nero, or black rooster, found wrapped around the top of the bottle.  The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico provides the legend of the gallo nero came about.
The Wines 
2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 
Comprised of at least 80% sangiovese with about 15% merlot and 5% cabernet sauvignon.  This wine was fermented in stainless steel and in skin contact for about 12-16 days.  It spent 9 months in barriques and tonneaux with an additional 3-6 months in bottle.  Deep ruby in color.  On the nose and on the palette this wine displayed bright juicy cherries with great acidity and notes of cedar and moderate tannin.  Finishing with notes of vanilla on a lengthy finish.  ABV 13.5% SRP $22 

2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva
2015 Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 
Same blend as the prior chianti classico as well as fermentation.  With it being a riserva a longer aging time is required by law with this wine aging 18 months in tonneaux.  The wine was my favorite of the two with more dried flowers and red fruits on the nose and deeper rich cherry flavors.  A well-balanced wine with beautiful complexities rounding out with velvety tannins and hints of tobacco leaves.  ABV 14% SRP $30

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*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.

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