Barone Ricasoli Orvieto Classico 1999
The House of Ricasoli has had an indelible impact on the history and quality of Chianti. According to Burton Anderson, "it is the world's oldest winery," having produced wines since 1141. Not only did an early Baron help create the appellation system, but in 1874, Baron Bettino Ricasoli (The "Iron Baron") developed the Sangiovese-based formula that came to be known as the official blend for Chianti.
After a few years of foreign ownership in the 60s and 70s, the Ricasoli winery is back in Italian hands -in fact, Francesco Ricasoli, the 32nd Baron of the original family, gained control in 1993. He has replanted several vineyards with improved clones, has improved the vinification technology, and has invested in new cooperage.
Barone Ricasoli is a commercial group that owns several estates throughout Tuscany. At its winery, it vinifies its own and other estates' wines, including those of Castello di Brolio. The Ricasoli family continues to show its commitment to quality and innovation. It was a leader of the Super Tuscan movement, with the production of its award-winning Casalferro. It produces a full range of Tuscan wines, ranging from Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG to the newest addition to the line, Formulae, a 100% Sangiovese aged in American oak casks.
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano coming in second.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, scattered with vineyards.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright and juicy red fruit, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity and ageability. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello expresses well the particularities of vintage variations and is thus popular among collectors. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, Carmignano and the island of Elba.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.