Centuries-old tradition, contemporary excellence. A journey of nearly a thousand years in Chianti Classico Tuscany. Brolio Castle: symbol of the territory of the Chianti Classico area. Ricasoli is the most representative wine producer in the Chianti Classico area. With its gentle hills, velvety valleys and thick woodlands of oaks and chestnuts, the 1,200 hectares of property include almost 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves.
This creates a continuous succession of colors and hues around the Brolio Castle, which is located within the town limits of Gaiole in Chianti. Since 1993, Baron Francesco Ricasoli has been guiding this central Tuscan company in innovative challenges. This has been done with the deepest respect for his renowned ancestors who have made this territory great, Bettino Ricasoli first and foremost.
Francesco Ricasoli, current owner and President of the company, has generated new ideas and concepts to render the vineyards sustainable. The ongoing study of soil types and the clonal selection of the Brolio Sangiovese are among his greatest passions, and he has totally renovated the vineyards and completely mapped them.
The new wines are therefore the expression of research carried out with the same scientific rigor of his illustrious ancestor but with a contemporary spirit, like a runner receiving the baton and carrying it forward with renewed energy.
The Ricasoli family appeared among the feudal noble dignitaries in the court of Emperor Charlemagne. From the thirteenth century onwards the branches of the family multiplied and then reunited once more in the late 1700s, early 1800s.
With their armies, generations of Ricasoli nobles have charted the course of history against the backdrop of Brolio Castle, defending Florence since 1200, from the eternal battles against Siena until the unity of Italy. Bettino Ricasoli, the Iron Baron, was twice Prime Minister of the newly united Italy after Cavour.
The history of the Ricasoli family has been linked to wine since 1141, when there is written testimony attesting that the Ricasoli family already possessed Brolio Castle. After centuries defending their lands and feudal sovereignty, the Ricasoli family understood the great potential of the Brolio territory and were among the first to dedicate themselves to the improvement of agriculture and vineyards. In fact, the family tree, reproduced in a print from 1584, is one of the first images of the Chianti area.
Interesting documents from the late 1600s report the first exports to Amsterdam and England, whereas at the start of the 1900s, the wines from Brolio were well known and appreciated, requested and exported all over the world: from China to Saudi Arabia, from South Africa to Guatemala, from Costa Rica to the one-time British colonies in Africa. Most especially, in 1872 Baron Bettino Ricasoli (1809 – 1880), illustrious politician and visionary wine entrepreneur, originated the formula for Chianti wine, now called Chianti Classico.
The cellars of Barone Ricasoli are at the foot of Brolio Castle, separated from the main body of the winery, and used exclusively for winemaking. The modernization of the old cellars was done by carefully restoring the aesthetics and functions of the original nineteenth century rooms, while organizing modern and technologically avant-garde spaces at the same time.
Each vineyard plot is harvested separately. Once gathered, the grapes are taken to the vat room in containers with a maximum capacity of 200 kg; vinification takes place in small steel vats, enabling careful regulation of the fermentation process and keeping the characteristics of every single vineyard plot separate.
Experimentation and a thorough knowledge of the land have led us to vinify separately even within the same plot, according to the morphological similarities of the subsoil. The structure of the winemaking cellar is devised so that the vats are filled by means of gravity, which allows a gentle punching down and extracts the most desirable substances from the skins.
At the end of the fermentation process the wines are transferred to barrels of various sizes and oak barriques in the barrel aging cellar. Frequent laboratory monitoring accompanies Ricasoli wines throughout their development right up to their long (sometimes very long) bottle aging in temperature-controlled rooms, before being sent off to their destinations in the four corners of the earth.
Ricasoli’s vineyards are all on hills, with altitudes ranging from 220 to 500 meters above sea level, mostly with a south, southwest exposure. The climate is Mediterranean, with concentrated rainfall in spring and autumn (about 32 inches per year), mild winters with rare snowfalls, and hot, dry summers.
Sangiovese is the reigning variety; here it finds an ideal environment where it can develop all its natural potential. Attention to the terroir guides choices at Ricasoli, such as the most suitable variety to plant; the most appropriate rootstock; correct row orientation; and best agronomic practices.
Soil Characteristics at Brolio
The main aim of this zonation project was to master the essential assets of the estate and land in an effort to orient both agronomic and enological choices towards best management practices to exalt modern precision in viticulture and sustainability. The zoning research that Francesco Ricasoli implemented, identified nineteen different soil types at Brolio, indicating the varied soil composition found in much of the Chianti Classico area. The wide variety typical of the Brolio vineyards is evident even to the naked eye. Wine vinified plot-by-plot has allowed us to identify areas with particular qualities and potentials and from this, wines of structure and distinctive flavor are produced. Some Crus of exceptional quality have been produced in thanks to the company’s propensity for the Cru concept. The estate can be divided into at least five principal soil substrates:
MACIGNO DEL CHIANTI FORMATION
Soil commonly called Arenarie, composed by sands and rocks, well drained and furnished with little organic matter. High elevations ranging from 400 to 500 meters above sea level and variable exposure, vine-density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Vines: Sangiovese, Merlot, Chardonnay. The soils yield complex and well-structured wines. This area is especially well suited to viticulture and includes part of the Casalferro vineyard.
Also called Brolio’s argillite or Galestro (schist-based soil). The soils are very thin and the geological formations found in this area are the Scaglia Toscana and the Macigno del Chianti Formation. The altitude ranges from 400 to 500 meters above sea level, vineyard exposure to the west, northwest, and south; vine- density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Vines: Sangiovese. Wine with high tannin content, complex structure, and intense minerality.
MONTE MORELLO FORMATION
Limestone, commonly called Alberese. Calcareous clay soil, rocky, rich in calcium carbonate and clay and poor in organic matter. The altitude ranges from 350 to 390 meters above sea level, southeast, southern, western exposure. Vines: predominantly Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; vine-density is 6,600 plants per hectare. Wines: excellent structure, body, and persistence, with soft and sweet tannins. The area is ideal for Sangiovese, and includes the Colledilà vineyard.
Pliocene marine sediments, with sandy deposits and rocks smoothed by the action of the sea, and clay at deeper levels. Good levels of organic matter. Altitudes in this area range from 300 to 350 meters above sea level, variable exposure, vine-density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Vines: predominantly Sangiovese. Wines produced from these soils are fresh, with spicy notes, elegant acidity and distinct minerality. This area includes part of the Roncicone vineyard.
ANCIENT FLUVIAL TERRACE
Fluvial-lacustrine deposits formed in the Pliocene-Pleistocene period. The deposits are silty, poorly structured, with clay. The altitude varies between 260 to 300 meters above sea level, southwest exposure. Vines: Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, vine-density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Wines with a complex range of aromas, well-structured, high tannin content, body, and persistence. This area includes part of the CeniPrimo vineyard.
For many years, Ricasoli has been practicing an increasingly nature-friendly agriculture. We have kept away from chemical weeding and pesticides and opted for systems of fertilization and parasite control that are even stricter than the principles of organic farming.
The 1,200 hectares of the property are a hymn to biodiversity: 70% of this large area is covered with woods and Mediterranean scrub characterized by an extraordinary variety of animal and plant species. A huge green lung that is maintained today as in the past, following a centuries-old tradition.
While in the woods lives a rich fauna that thrives thanks to the healthiness of the environment, the sustainable practices in the vineyard favour the presence and work of pollinating insects and that of microorganisms and invertebrates, which enrich the soils.