Friday, 21 October 2011
European Wine Bloggers' Conference 2011 (#EWBC): Visit to Castello di Brolio (18.10.11)
Castello di Brolio
The Castello gardens and vineyards (above and below)
The Castello di Brolio estate now gives the impression of seamless evolution and of long historical continuity.
However, in the latter part of the 20th century this certainly wasn’t the case. In the 1970s the winery and the brand was separated from the Castello and the vineyards and the former was sold to Seagram and then onto Hardy’s. Eventually the Ricasoli family was able to buy this back from Hardy’s who were in severe financial difficulties having pursued an over-optimistic overseas expansion.
The current managing director, Francesco Ricasoli, has since been working to restore both the quality of the wines and its reputation. He alluded briefly to the 20 years of mismanagement in foreign hands but gave no details.
Francesco’s initial pitch was that he wanted to know about bloggers, who we were and why we blogged and didn’t write for the conventional print media. Apart from a few shouted answers, I’m not sure he was especially interested in answers to his question. I spoke to him afterwards and explained that it wasn’t possible to categorise the group as we all had different backgrounds and experiences. Ricasoli’s response was that he was being provocative.
Reading in the Brolio’s booklet that their top wine was a blend of mainly Sangiovese plus a small amount of Merlot and Cabernet I asked him about the blends in the Castello di Brolio 2008 and 2005, their top Chianti Classicos. Francesco responded that this was both a beautiful question and a very stupid one. He launched into a spiel about his wines being an expression of their terroir and not about individual grape varieties. A reasonably enough view but it does beg the question that if the terroir is so important to you, why do you use imported French grape varieties and not a range Tuscan native grapes.
Of the five wines shown my preference was for the reasonably priced (14.80€) 2008 Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva. My least favourite was the 2008 Casalferro (100% Merlot@29€ a bottle – 2007 currently on sale). To be fair this was far from the worst Merlot I have tasted in Tuscany as it wasn’t overcloying and had acidity in the finish. Why would I want to pay double the price of the Riserva for a Merlot? Someday I hope the producers in Chianti Classico will decide that the super-Tuscans (now IGTs but formerly vino da tavola) has become a cul de sac.