Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ricasoli Pioneers The Art And Power Of Chianti Classico

IMG_20200114_201002_996When your wine heritage dates to 1141, you certainly know your stuff. Such is the case with Ricasoli, pioneer of premium Chianti Classico wine.

A Wine And Food Experience

Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy and the fourth oldest in the world. Not only that, but in 1872 Baron Bettino Ricasoli a politician and visionary wine entrepreneur, originated the formula for Chianti wine, now known world-round as Chianti Classico.

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During our recent Wine Studio education class we embarked on a month-long look at Ricasoli. Before we began, it was clear that these superlative wines must be paired with exceptional food. We would have to bring our “A” game in the kitchen.

My wife, the Green Dragon, is the culinary force behind Vino-Sphere and she outdid herself, preparing wonderful wine dinners each Tuesday for a month. Our entrees included Pork Roast Stuffed with Kalamata Olives and Oregano, Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu, Cannelloni with Braised Beef, Walnuts and Fried Sage, and Red Wine Braised Osso Buco over Parmesan Polenta. These dishes were over the top with goodness. I must tearfully note that this particular party is over – I had a hot dog today for lunch!

IMG_20200120_115939~2The Heart Of Chianti Classico

The Ricasoli family has been linked to winemaking since 1141. Its sprawling estate includes 593 acres of vineyard plus another 26 of olive trees. The focal point for Ricasoli is the impressive Brolio Castle, which dominates the Chianti Classico countryside and has done so for 10 centuries.

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Chianti Classico is the historic heart of Chianti dating back to the Middle Ages. In recent times it separated from the Chianti DOCG to become a distinct appellation with somewhat higher standards. The black rooster on the label is the iconic symbol of the wine region. Chianti Classico must include 80% to 100% Sangiovese and cannot be released until a year after harvest. Riserva requires two years of aging and a higher alcohol level.

This was our first opportunity to taste Gran Selezione, a new category of premium wine in Chianti Classico. Gran Selezione must be produced from estate grapes and age a minimum of 30 months along with stricter technical and sensory guidelines. The designation started in 2014, but wines from the 2010 vintage that met requirements also are considered Gran Selezione. In fact the 2010 we tried didn’t have the GS designation on the label, but the 2015 did.

Sangiovese is what drives the success of Chianti Classico. Ricasoli vineyards benefit from southern exposure and a Mediterranean climate. The steep slopes use the rittochino method of managing drainage to prevent erosion. There are 19 different soil types at Ricasoli which allows the production of varied Grand Cru-style wines.

IMG_20200204_195741Uncorking A Legend

We were able to taste through eight bottles from Ricasoli including Chianti Classico, Riserva, Gran Selezione, “Super Tuscan,” and their “Grand Cru” wines. Every splash and swirl was delectable – especially paired with good friends and amazing cuisine. For full enjoyment even the older vintages need at least an hour of decanting.

The wines are artistic and expressive, the tannins are well integrated meaning you enjoy the toasty benefits of barrel aging without having harshness. Ricasoli wines are also complex, with layers that unfurl as you sip and swirl the night away. They embrace the cuisine of Italy perfectly.

Here’s a snapshot of these great wines along with the dishes we served:

Dinner Pairing – Garden Salad with Strawberries, Pork Roast Stuffed with Kalamata Olives and Oregano with Roasted Fennel

Chianti Classico 2016 – Soft and juicy with luscious notes of cherry, a splash of acidity and minerality. Earthy undertones. Sangiovese 80%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%. A luscious house style with smooth tannins and balanced acidity. SRP $22.

Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 - A brilliant wine highlighted by perfect oaking, cooked cherries and a scruff of earthiness. Harmonious and elegant. Only $30? Wow!

Ricasoli MontageDinner Pairing – Ribollita Soup, Pappardelle and Lamb Ragu , Tiramisu

Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2015 – Smooth and integrated red fruit with nice acidity. A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Decanted for two hours. Firm with a long finish and touch of vanilla. SRP $70.

Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010 – Bright ruby color. A powerful wine with graceful notes of black fruit. Bold and brilliant. Sangiovese 80%, Merlot 15%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 5%. SRP $70.

Dinner Pairing – Spinach Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Cannelloni with Braised Beef, Walnuts and Fried Sage, Assorted Chocolates 

Casalferro IGT 2011 – A single vineyard 100% Merlot Super Tuscan. Expansive with integrated tannins, vibrant red fruit and undertones of earth. Rich and wonderful. SRP $70.

Casalferro IGT 2008 – Also a 100% Merlot, the 2008 is intense with earthy notes and cherry flavors. A bold take on Tuscan wine. SRP $70.

Dinner Pairing – Faro and Country Olive Salad with Walnuts and Raisins, Red Wine Braised Osso Buco over Parmesan Polenta, Mini-Cannoli

Roncicone Gran Selezione 2016 - Soft, round and rich Sangiovese with sour cherry and citrus zest.  SRP $70.

Colledià Gran Selezione 2015 - A Grand Cru wine for sure. Big and bold with extracted fruit flavors. Rich and rewarding. Decanting necessary. SRP $85.

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