Visiting Chianti Classico country
Part 9: Ricasoli/Castello di Brolio  


The next visit was to Ricasoli (which when pronounced properly sounds worryingly like ‘Rick Astley’), where we met with managing director Stefano Capuso.

Ricasoli has recently come out of a difficult period. In the 1970s the Ricasoli family sold the winery and brand (Castello di Brolio), but not the old family home (right) and vineyards, to drinks giant Seagram. Then ensued the wilderness years of 1972–1993, when the brand was milked and quality fell.

So in 1993 Francesco Ricasoli, the 32nd Baron of Brolio, decided to come back to the family business and take over the winery. ‘It was close to bankruptcy,’ reveals Capuso, ‘It had focused on big volumes for 20 years. We were making 12 million bottles a year; now we make just 2 million.’

Capuso describes this as a matter of pride. Along with some investors, the family bought the winery. Since then, the share of the family has increased to 95%. Francesco decided to change the approach, and began replanting the vineyards. Altogether, here are 250 hectares of vineyards, which have been replanted over a ten year period. Sangiovese is the core business, but there’s Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay too. 

One interesting observation that came out in our discussions was that the exotic red grapes planted in Tuscany often end up tasting like Sangiovese. They don’t risk overtaking the blend. ‘The terroir – weather and soil – are unique here,’ says Capuso. ‘We have an extremely hot July and August, but cool nights. Even the exotic grapes taste like Sangiovese.’

Stefano Capuso pouring wines

The wines

Ricasoli Chardonnay ‘Torricella’ IGT 2004
Yellow colour. Lovely citrus pith freshness to the nose, which is bright and fruity. The palate is bold and pithy with nice direct, bright fruit and good acidity. This is a delicious bright fruity style. 91/100

Castelli di Brolio Chianti Classico 2006
Deep colour. Smooth, fresh, sweet cherry and berry fruit nose. The palate has nice pure fruit: very modern and sweet with cherries and hints of blackcurrant. Sweet and sophisticated with some sappy notes in the background. Stylish modern Chianti. 90/100

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2004
Very dense and sweetly fruited. Really modern with concentrated blackcurrant and dark cherry fruit. Some lushness with modern bold fruit backed up by dense structure. 91/100

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2001
Dense and concentrated with dark fruits backed up by good tannins and acidity. Notes of tobacco, tar and herby with sweet tarry aromatics. Modern but with a savoury edge to it. 90/100

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva ‘Rocca Guicciardia’ 2005
Sweet, rounded and quite lush with soft, ripe berry fruits, and a slightly roasted edge. The palate has some nice spicy notes and some minerality, too. Satisfying and rich. 89/100

Casalferro IGT 2004
A blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Merlot. Very smooth, pure, brooding blackcurrant and berry fruit nose. Smooth, aromatic and sophisticated. The palate has lovely bright expressive fruit. Concentrated and minerally. Very fresh with good acidity and well integrated oak. I love the pure bright berry fruits here, with their minerally underpinning. Great definition. 93/100

Casalferro IGT 2001
Deep coloured. Smooth, brooding dark fruits nose with hints of white pepper, meat and spice. The palate has some warm herby, spicy, earthy notes under the ripe black fruit. Stylish and evolving nicely; still quite structured. Drinking very well now, but I wouldn’t leave too much longer. 92/100

Granello IGT 2006
An interesting wine: Sauvignon Blanc (90%) with a bit of Traminer and Chardonnay, with the grapes being laid out to dry a bit after harvest (passito).Beautifully richly textured with bright, slightly herby fruit. Viscous and melony. Very sweet yet fresh with a hint of spice. 89/100

Vin Santo 2003
100% Malvasia. Orange/brown colour. Very aromatic, sweet nose with marmalade, dried fruits, lemon pith and old furniture notes. The palate is concentrated with lovely spicy complexity and good acidity, as well as barley sugar notes. Real complexity here. 92/100

Bomb damage

A short film from the visit, including some winemaking in action:


Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Fontodi
Part 3: Castello di Querceto
Part 4: Castello della Paneretta
Part 5: Bibbiano
Part 6: Fattoria di Felsina
Part 7: Castell'in Villa
Part 8: Palazzino
Part 9: Barone Ricasoli
Part 10: Colle Lungo
Part 11: Vicchiomaggio

Wines tasted: 10/08
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