This elegant wine is good for everyday drinking but also lends itself to more challenging food combinations.
The history of Italy cannot be told without including the prominent contributions of the Ricasoli family, who have produced wine since 1141. Ricasoli is documented as the oldest winery in Italy and the fourth oldest family business in the world. A beautiful illustration of the family tree in 1584 is one of the first images of the Chianti area and the family archives include export receipts dating back to the late 1600s. However, perhaps the most famous historical contribution came from Baron Bettino Ricasoli, who was not only twice the prime minister of Italy, but after 30 years of experimentation and documentation, developed the original formula for the Chianti wine that became the standard for the region.
The heart of the Ricasoli wine production comes from the Brolio castello, a magnificent castle located in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti, which was built as an outpost to defend Florence from the rival city of Siena. Within the estate, ancient cannonballs and even more recent WWII artillery shells have been found, evidence of the historical strategic importance of the castle with views of the entire Chianti Classico area. The 3,000 acre estate includes 580 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards, ranging in altitude from 800 to 1,500 feet. Each plot is harvested and fermented separately with meticulous dedication.
Baron Francesco Ricasoli has been at the helm of the winery since 1993 and with the deepest respect for his renowned ancestors, he has guided the estate in innovation and sustainable vineyard practices. The ongoing study of soil types and the clonal selection of the Brolio Sangiovese are among his greatest passions and he has been responsible for total renovation and re-mapping of the vineyards. Today, the wines are a reflection of the family’s nine hundred year dedication to quality winemaking and innovation at the Brolio estate.
Famous for its food-friendly, approachable red wines and their storied history, Chianti is perhaps the best-known wine region of Italy. This appellation within Tuscany has it all: sweeping views of rolling hills, endless vineyards, the warm Mediterranean sun, hearty cuisine and a rich artistic heritage. Chianti includes seven subzones: Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Rufina, Montalbano, Colli Senesi, Colline Pisane, Colli Aretini and Montespertoli, with area beyond whose wines can be labeled simply as Chianti.
However the best quality comes from Chianti Classico, in the heart of the Chianti zone, which is no longer a subzone of the region at all but has been recognized on its own since 1996. The Classico region today is delimited by the confines of the original Chianti zone protected since the 1700s.
Chianti wines are made primarily of Sangiovese, with other varieties comprising up to 25-30% of the blend. Generally, local varieties are used, including Canaiolo, Colorino and Mammolo, but international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are allowed as long as they are grown within the same zone.
Basic, value-driven Chianti wine is simple and fruit-forward and makes a great companion to any casual dinner. At its apex, Chianti is full bodied but with good acidity, firm tannins, and notes of tart red fruit, dried herbs, fennel, balsamic and tobacco. Chianti Riserva, typically the top bottling of a producer, can benefit handsomely from a decade or two of cellaring.
Among Italy's elite red grape varieties, Sangiovese has the perfect intersection of bright red fruit and savory earthiness and is responsible for the best red wines of Tuscany. While it is best known as the chief component of Chianti, it is also the main grape in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and reaches the height of its power and intensity in the complex, long-lived Brunello di Montalcino. Somm Secret—Sangiovese doubles under the alias, Nielluccio, on the French island of Corsica where it produces distinctly floral and refreshing reds and rosés.