For the last month, we have participated in a weekly tasting of some excellent Ricasoli 1141 wines. The brand name underlines that the Ricasoli family has been linked to wine since 1141. This is the oldest winery in Italy and the fourth-oldest family business in the world. The result of all this experience is consistent, superb quality Chianti Classico at several price points. These wines flaunt their pedigree in the first sip. They will make excellent Valentine’s Day gifts for that special someone. Certainly, they will pair well with any celebration!
First of all, the heart of the Ricasoli wine production comes from a magnificent castle, Brolio Castello, located in Gaiole in Chianti. The 3,000-acre estate includes 593 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards. Furthermore, Brolio Castle is a landmark of Chianti Classico.
The beautiful castle welcomes more than 50-thousand visitors each year. They experience tastings and visits to the gorgeous gardens. Osteria del Castello restaurant is also on the premises, featuring traditional Italian cuisine.
In 1872, Baron Bettino Ricasoli, a former prime minister of Italy, developed the original formula for Chianti wine, now called Chianti Classico. This became the standard for the region. And what a legacy!
These days, Baron Francesco Ricasoli heads the winery, and is the 32nd generation Baron of Brolio. Since 1993, he has renovated and remapped the vineyards. His ongoing research into soil mapping and clones are renowned in Italy. Zoning research identified 19 different soil types, many evident to the naked eye.
The topography and geology play a large role in the variety of Chianti and Chianti Classico styles. According to wine educator and writer Lyn Farmer, “The hills of Chianti Classico alter wind patterns, affect sunlight and, with altitude, have an effect on temperature. It is these rolling hills that give us so many microclimates and soil types.” Terroir does speak, he added.
Sangiovese is the reigning variety, but we also tasted two Ricasoli Merlots. What a difference between these old-world wines compared with the new-world ones produced in the U.S.
Finally, here is a week-by-week overview of excellent Ricasoli 1141 wines that reflect the family’s 900-year dedication to quality winemaking.
Week 1: Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2016 & Chianti Classico Riserva 2016
Both the Chianti Classico and the Riserva blend Sangiovese (80%) with Merlot (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). But the Riserva is produced from a careful selection of the best barrels of Brolio. Both wines are somehow soft and elegant at the same time. They feature notes of cherry, licorice, black tea, earthiness and minerality, plus the high acidity and medium tannins typical of Sangiovese. These are basic wines in the Ricasoli portfolio, and “basic” never tasted so good! Aromatic, flavorful, food-friendly, old-world wine – what’s not to love?
Week 2: Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 & 2015
By law, Gran Selezione wines must be made solely with estate grapes. Known as the most iconic, this is the premium level of Chianti Classico, introduced in 2014 with the 2010 vintage. This flagship 2010 blends 80% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Not surprisingly, it displays the maturity of a 10-year- old wine. The 2010 is integrated, rich and concentrated, with black cherry, licorice, cinnamon, minerality, and a touch of smoky, savory goodness. The 2015 has 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cab Sauv and 5% Petit Verdot. It features layers of red fruit, black cherry and hints of vanilla and tobacco. This wine is smooth, distinguished, complex and elegant. Bring on the steak!
Week 3: Ricasoli Casalferro 2008 & 2011
In 2007, Casalferro became a Cru of 100% Merlot. These two vintages, 2008 and 2011, showcase the flavors of Tuscany. These Merlots are so different from new-world Merlot, and both are excellent! The 2008 has an intense nose with aromatics and flavors of cocoa, anise, spices, leather, and lots of red fruit. The 2011 displays more mineral, licorice and cherry notes, but keeps the spices, leathery notes and red berries. This is obviously, a younger wine, but still rich and powerful.
Week 4: Ricasoli Colledila Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015 & Roncicone Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2016
Oh my, these are gorgeous, elegant wines, and a perfect way to wrap up a four-week exploration of Ricasoli 1141. 2015 Colledia is velvety rich and mouth-filling, a classic Italian Sangiovese. It opens with aromatics of red fruit, raisins and plum, and offers excellent structure and volume. 2016 Roncicone is a beautiful, bright wine that features lavender, violets and orange peel, with spicy notes and pronounced minerality. Both these wines would pair well with steak, pasta with a tomato sauce, roasted chicken, spicy foods or mushroom dishes. Notably, many wines would not pair well with tomato sauce, but these are definitely an exception. And they both would also pair extremely well with Valentine’s Day.
You can find these stellar Ricasoli wines in the U.S. Of note, the wines from the first two weeks have great distribution here. But the wines for weeks three and four have a more limited release in this country. We hope this historic winery will export more in the future.
As mentioned, these wines will pair well with any special occasion.
Margot and Dave