The Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Barone Ricasoli

The Ricasoli family has played a decisive role in the development of Chianti Classico. At Castello di Brolio, Italy's oldest winery, Bettino Ricasoli developed its epoch-making formula in 1872. In May 1924, the family was one of the 33 founders of the Consorzio Chianti Classico. To commemorate its 100th birthday, Francesco Ricasoli presented the current wines in Hamburg. Particularly in focus: the four Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.

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Barone Francesco Ricasoli

On 14 May 1924, 33 local producers founded the Consorzio Chianti Classico, Italy’s first winegrowers’ association, in Radda. In the sign of the “Gallo Nero”, the syndicate wanted to protect the identity of their wine on national and international markets. Today, after a 100-year success story, the syndicate has 480 members. Of the 33 from the founding year, only three are still there, including the Ricasoli family. However, the region is celebrating a second milestone this year, namely ten years of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. In 2014, the first wines from the 2011 vintage were launched on the market in the new premium level above the Riservas. Ricasoli was also involved right from the start. “We simply needed a new category back then,” recalls Baron Francesco Ricasoli. Simply to show the world what level the best Chianti Classico wines are at today.

Chiantis on a new level

The white single-vineyard Trebbiano Sanbarnaba is the top white wine from Castello di Brolio.

A Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is neither a Chianti Riserva nor a Super Tuscan. The wines must contain at least 90 per cent Sangiovese and a maximum of 10 per cent red indigenous grapes. Before they are released onto the market, they must have matured for at least 30 months, including three months in the bottle, and have passed a quality test. They are either wines from single vineyards or blends made exclusively from the estate’s own grapes. Since July 2023, the wines may also bear one of the eleven geographical indications (UGA = unità geografiche aggiuntive) on the label. But at Castello di Brolio, formal criteria tend to take a back seat. Since Baron Francesco Ricasoli took over the management of the winery in 1993, his fundamental aim has been to take Chianti Classico to a new level.

The soil and the clones

Torricella has been produced for over 100 years, although it used to be made from Malvasia.

After many experiments, Francesco’s great-great-grandfather Bettino Ricasoli made Sangiovese the leading grape variety in Chianti in 1872. In doing so, he actually created the wine that we know by this name. The impulse to improve the wine through practical research is therefore part of Castello di Brolio’s DNA, so to speak. Francesco Ricasoli dedicated himself to the further development of his wines in two areas in particular: clonal research and soil analysis. He appointed Carlo Ferrini, who had been responsible for the consortium’s “Chianti 2000” research project, as chief oenologist. A mass selection of 50 different biotypes of Sangiovese was created at Vigna Cipressi, from which the “Sangiovese di Brolio” clones used today ultimately emerged. From 2008-2010, the Brolio team and CRA (Centre for Research and Experimentation in Agriculture) analysed 240 hectares of vineyards. In the process, they identified 19 different soil formations with five macrotypes. This was the decisive preliminary work. It led to the creation of the four different Gran Selezione wines from Barone Ricasoli.

The Chianti Classico as kick-off

Hamburg had the honour of being the venue for the “anteprima”, the preview of the latest vintage of Ricasoli’s Gran Selezione wines. They will go on sale from 1 July at the earliest. The tasting began with the “simple” Brolio Chianti Classico as a calibration. The cuvée of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino comes from different soils at an altitude of between 280 and 480 metres and ages for nine months in used tonneaux. A charming, not overly complex, but well-made wine, of which around 400,000 bottles are produced. Sour cherry and meat extract on the nose, slightly fruity sweetness on the palate, powdery tannins and delicate bitter notes (89 P.).

The four Gran Selezione

The first of the estate’s three crus is Colledilà 2021 from calcareous clay soils, the Tuscan Alberese. Like the following Chiantis, it is made from 100 per cent Sangiovese. And like these, it ferments in stainless steel and ages for 22 months in 500-litre tonneaux, 30 percent of which are new. A much more concentrated and defined bouquet of sour cherries, plums, meat juice and macchia hedges. Velvety mouthfeel with good freshness and grippy tannins (93 P.). Roncicone 2021 comes from marine deposits at an altitude of up to 400 metres. On the nose, the wine appears softer and warmer due to its sweet cherry flavour, but there is actually a flash of striking acidity on the palate. Very pure and enormously complex, but also not intended for early consumption (95 p.).

CeniPrimo 2021 comes from ancient river terraces in the Arbia valley, in the southernmost part of the estate. Traditionally, the grapes are harvested the latest here at Brolio. Much more “civilised”, and therefore a real contrast to the impetuous Roncicone. Here too, the acidity carries the wine, but it is better integrated. Spicy bouquet, dense on the palate, with a lot of grip and long-lasting (96 P.). Castello di Brolio 2021 is a cuvée from vineyards near the historic Castello. Three different soil formations predominate here: Albarese, Galestro (a mixture of limestone and blue slate) and Macigno de Chianti, a sandstone type. The wine immediately makes the sense of a cuvée clear. Seamless and multi-layered, it is not the most expressive wine of the quartet, but perhaps the most complete. A reflection of Chianti Classico in its entirety (94 P.).

The remaining

During the meal that followed, Francesco Ricasoli presented other wines from the current production. The white Torricella 2022, a single-vineyard Chardonnay, and the single-vineyard Merlot Casalferro 2020 recalled Castello di Brolio’s centuries-old experience with French grape varieties. Sanbarnaba 2020 is a single-vineyard Trebbiano and represents Tuscany’s current search for a top white wine. Brolio Bettino 2021 is an ambitious Chianti Classico made from 100% Sangiovese, combining all five of the estate’s main soil types. Castello di Brolio 2016 shows how Brolio Chiantis from the best years evolve with the first notes of maturity. Castello di Brolio Vin Santo 2014 (90% Malvasia), aged for nine years in 50-litre Caratelli barrels, is a wonderful finale.

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