Spotlight on Sangiovese: Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2001
Grape and Soil
Late-ripening Sangiovese is a challenge to grow in a region like Chianti. Less warm (and therefore less reliable) than Montalcino, most Sangiovese in Chianti must be planted on southerly slopes in order to sop up enough sun to ripen effectively. Wines mirror vintage considerably as a result. This has also led to the propensity to blend Sangiovese with other grapes in Chianti, most often Cabernet Sauvignon. But times are a changin’
Soils in Chianti vary, but Chianti Classico is a mix of shale and clay, which tends to produce wines of greater concentration than the soils outside of the Classico zone. Since the 1990’s, Italians have been rediscovering this terroir, amongst others, and are now understanding how to effectively plant Sangiovese without the need for blending. Nonetheless it is possible to find great blended wines along with 100% varietal wines, as this Chianti Classico attests.
One of the Oldest Estates in Europe
Ricasoli is a very large but also respected producer in Chianti with a serious history stretching back to the 12th century. A later iteration of Baron Ricasoli (Bettino) was one of the founders of Chianti Classico in the 19th century and was hugely influential in researching clones and blending, ultimately finding a formula that led to today’s DOCG rules. Amazingly, the estate is still in the hands of the family (if you want a contrast between new and old world wine estates, I can’t think of a better one).
The Castello di Brolio is more than just Chianti Classico DOCG, it is rather a single vineyard site that is considered to be one of the best in the region. Made with mostly Sangiovese (usually about 80%) with about 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine displays all the classic Sangiovese markers of leather, earth, cherry and tobacco leaf.
This is an incredibly delicious wine with superb high acid structure. The oak has now integrated, though the wine could go longer in bottle. The Castello is a great example of oak aging (18 months) that works and integrates well with the grape. I detected some darker chocolate notes along with rich ripe black cherries and an absolute ton of concentration. This will please those who like bigger wines and those who prefer wines with a considerable acid backbone. The intensity of the fruit and the acid meld extremely well. Simply put, the wine has attained uncommon balance. Balance is often the missing key to wines. Most drinkers don’t realize that they will in fact enjoy many styles of wine so long as they are properly balanced, an unfortunately rare phenomenon. And, it works with food. A “prestige” wine that works with food – finally!
The 10 years of age suits this wine well as it is still youthful but very integrated. It could go 5 more.
$79 at Kits Wine Cellar (on sale for $59)