Friday, June 20, 2008

About wine tours in Tuscany: a perfect day in the Chianti: history, art, wine and food

What a wonderful day Gaia and I have spent at Brolio in the Chianti area of Siena.

Simona, a staff member of Barone Ricasoli winery, leader in producing Chianti Classico and Supertuscan, was our guide for this day tour.

We started with the visit of the Castle of Brolio, a beautiful manor house with its characteristic bricks walls.

We made a pleasant walk around the wonderful gardens which surround the Castle and from which our eyes enjoyed an amazing view onto the vineyards and the hills around them.

Simona showed us also the Chapel of San Jacopo: the private Chapel of the Ricasoli Family.

I was impressed about this. It’s a jewel and it seems like a tiny cathedral. I was very happy in discovering that the mosaics which decorate the walls around the altar belong to Alessandro Franchi, a famous 19th Century Siena painter.

I am an art lover and some years ago I made a research study about some paintings located inside another Chapel in Siena where most of the masterpieces belong to this painter. I was very happy to be able to recognize his style.

What Gaia and I couldn’t imagine was to meet a so important person while we were visiting the castle.

Don’t you guess? No, of course.

We met the Baron Bettino Ricasoli and his wife!

What delicious persons are them. They have just arrived for a short break at the castle. Yes, you have understood very well: when the Baron Bettino and his wife come in the Chianti area they live in ‘their’ castle and ‘what’ a castle…

The Baron is the father of Francesco Ricasoli who nowadays is the General Manager of the winery.

After the Castle Simona brought us to the wine cellar and explained us what happens when the grapes arrive here, especially those to produce their best wine: Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio.

She told us that :

- the containers with the grapes are discharged into a stalk separator from where the grapes throw down into the steel tanks;
- the fermentation and maceration begin inside the steel tanks at a temperature around 28°-31°C, for about 19 days. During this time, the skins are forced upward by carbon dioxide produced by yeasts during fermentation and form a compact mass known as the cap. In order to get the most out of the raw material, the cap is broken up and forced downward. And wine is pumped over the mass;
- when the maceration ends the wine is transferred in wood containers called ‘barriques’ and remains there for 18 months;
- the wine is transferred in the bottles and remains there for about 1 or 2 years for fining;
- finally the wine it’s ready for selling and you can find it at the market or you can order that direct through their web site !

I love the Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio but I’m not an expert of wine so I ask to Simona: when I buy a bottle of Castello di Brolio which has written ‘2004’ on the label what does it means?

The answer: it means that the grapes were collected and the wine produced on ‘2004’.

Why I made this question? because usually the guests of Borgo Grondaie ask me which vintage of Chianti Classico is better and what it does mean… So, now I know!

After the visit of the cellar Simona offered us a tasting of two wines at their ‘fancy’ wine shop where they sell their famous wines at the best prices, of course.

Our tour finished with a light lunch at their restaurant called Osteria del Castello located on one side of the trail trees which go up to the Castle.

The restaurant is really charming with large windows with a view.

We had an ‘antipasto’ with delicious tipycal snacks of the area, ‘ravioli’ (a kind of handmade pasta) with tomato and a wonderful dessert with chocolate.

Of course we drinks their wines: a Chianti Classico Riserva Rocca Guicciarda and a sweet white wine called ‘Granello’.

Believe me: do you want to assure you an unforgettable day in one of the most beautiful place in Tuscany? contact Simona and book in advance your tour.

For detailed information and to see pictures of the Castle, the Wine Shop and the Osteria don’t miss to go

by Amina

P.S. written in May 2009: the Baron Bettino Ricasoli died.

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