No secret that my tastes in wine tend toward a more robust, hearty flavor. In my mind, the deeper the color the richer the flavor and texture, the better. Maybe that is why I prefer the wines of Italy over other countries, because of this and the history involved. So many of the wine producing families there can trace their roots back to the Renaissance, back to The Empire. There is so much history here. So much of a calling to an ancient time. So much tradition upon which a standard is built.
The Brolio Castle stands atop a hill overlooking the region of Italy known as Chianti, in Tuscany. The castle dates back to the 11th century and was long considered a stronghold of Florence in its seemingly endless wars against Siena. In 1529, the castle was besieged by the Spanish and was burned with only the outer walls surviving. The Ricasoli family, having owned the castle since 1141 was actually hunted, but managed to survive and dedicate themselves to the vast strengths of the area, namely agriculture and vineyards. The family tree, shown in a 1584 picture, also depicts the opening of the area to such early methods of production, and by the early 1600’s, the Ricasoli family was exporting fine wines to England and Amsterdam. Later, in 1874, the Baron Bettino Ricasoli, a noted politician and wine entrepreneur, originated the formula for Chianti wine and what we now know as the great Chianti Classico.
Skipping to more modern times, Baron Francesco Ricasoli now runs the business with an eye toward history and sustainability, with research showing the deepest respect to his long family history. The cellars of the winery, used exclusively for fermentation and aging are located at the foot of the fully restored and modernized Brolio Castle. Each vineyard is harvested separately and vinification takes place in stainless steel barrels while keeping each vineyard separate and unique. At the end of fermentation wines are transferred to small oak barrels to age before their ultimate transfer to bottles. Interestingly, the liquid is moved about, solely by the use of gravity. There are no pumping stations used, ever, so the liquid is moved slowly, carefully from storage to barrel partly with a nod to tradition, but also with the idea of transferring as much of the body of flavor.
As this is a chianti wine, its flavor is just incredible. Made from the sangiovese grape, and grown in a climate most conducive to vineyards, with a rich soil that feeds the vines, this wine just says grape. It is a deep purple color with a body that does cling to the glass, giving it long,beautiful legs that shimmer in the right light. An aroma that few can match is noticeable as soon as the bottle is opened, and a brief exposure to air will get your attention. I did let this bottle sit for almost two hours before drinking which only served to give the opportunity to savor that aroma. Actually, decanting this wine would have been a better idea not only to allow the aeration process, but also, since we served it to guests, we could allow our senses to revel at the intense color as well as the aroma. Later though, the taste did not disappoint and lived up to our expectations.
Just as an aside, the estate also harbors a fine restaurant as well as guest rooms. Friday Evenings at the Osteria is a journey to a menu personally selected by Baron Ricasoli with wines to enhance the dining experience which also include some older, rarer vintages. Couple this with a guided tour of the castle and you will surely have an experience to remember.
We paired this meal with grilled pork ribs and roasted brussels sprouts, heavily seasoned and crisped and the results were excellent. The strong flavor of the ribs was enhanced with an old fashioned rub and they were slowly grilled to tenderized perfection, while still having a bite to them. The wine brought out the flavor very well. This, again, is a wine that tastes like a very fine grape, sangiovese 100%, with a very slight nod to cherry and tobacco, and one person did also mention peach. Personally, I didn’t get that. I could also see this wine paired well with a game bird, like duck or pheasant, or a well aged steak like a porterhouse. And since it is an Italian wine, it is just made for a good Sunday gravy, yes, gravy (not sauce) with all the usual accompaniments, like sausage, braciole and on and on.
As for ratings, Both James Suckling and Wine Spectator rated this a very respectable 90, while Wine Advocate went slightly above at 91 points. In your personal review though, I would urge you to consider not only the taste, not only the aroma, the legs,or the tannins. But consider this: this is a true family venture backed with centuries of history, and that is what you are getting, a sense of a bygone era. A venture that time has not overcome but instead has added character.