Barone Ricasoli Orvieto Classico 1999
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.
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.