RICASOLIHistory, savoir-faire, passion & tradition

Anna Caidan meets up with Baron Francesco Ricasoli, owner and President of the company.
Wine Story

What could you tell me about the history of Barone Ricasoli?

‘How many days do we have!? We are in Tuscany, and Ricasoli is the name of my family, and also the company’s name. We are considered the oldest winery in Italy and one of the oldest in the world because we have documents revealing that we were in Brolio, that is where the property is, since 1141. A lot of history about wine making has been written about Ricasoli and by Ricasoli especially when oenology and viticulture became more of an industry. In the 19th century one of my most well-known ancestors Bettino Ricasoli was the one who defined the way to produce Chianti, and it became very popular, Chianti was made everywhere. So, let's say that Ricasoli is for Chianti, what Dom Perignon has been for champagne, just to make a long story short!’

What is the secret to making your wines?

‘The secret today is to be a little bit manic and to always be curious about the fine tuning. We are fortunate enough to have an amazing variety that is Sangiovese, which is planted in our region which can really express its unique character. Having said that, it is also a difficult great variety to grow and to manage, and so therefore you have to be a little bit maniac in following certain procedures. Today with the help of knowledge and science, you can really do things better and avoid mistakes and to go to the detail of the matter, because today to produce not only good wines but wines that have a soul and a sense of the place you need a little bit more than that.’

What is your favourite step in the wine making process?

‘In the vineyard, not even in the cellar, I think that everything is made in the vineyard. The character, the quality, everything! I use the term precision viticulture because maybe in one corner you need a certain kind of operation but in another one, a different kind so you have to be smart to understand the location, the soil, the clones, the grape varieties, and even the local material differences. And therefore, in the cellar, you can only ruin what has been done outside, that's why I always say I believe in technology because technology helps to prevent mistakes by knowing what you are doing and being able to take the accurate steps at the right moments.’

What is your best memory since working at Barone Ricasoli?

‘The best memory is when you get the recognition of your hard work from the people outside and hopefully it's not just once, it comes often but that's because people hardly understand how complicated and how difficult it can be to do this job.’

…and your most challenging moment?

‘Most challenges come even today, because again, often peoples’ perception of this world of making wine is a little bit bucolic because of traditions and so on, but for passionate people it's a very dynamic world where even small advantages in knowledge can improve and can give an added value to the wine. We belong to a region that has been part of the history of wine making, so how can we evolve and how can we move to the next step without losing our good traditions? This is something that I think we are in the middle of working out. Here still working with the same grape varieties we are using the same approach but with a more accurate fine tuning. The tradition of Chianti Classico has always been in blending different Sangiovese and or using other great varieties so it is a result of a blend what we have been doing is instead working on specific single vineyards of Sangiovese and showing the beauty of it, so it's quite innovative. It seems like not much but for the region and for the appellation it's something quite astonishing. This is what is happening not only for us, but for our neighbours and colleagues is to do more specific research on the great expression of Sangiovese. Chianti Classico has often been perceived as an everyday wine to drink without so much complexity. Instead I think today we have been reaching the best wine list and ratings worldwide, so we are gaining the respect that a few decades ago we didn't have.’

What type of food pairs best with your wines?

‘That's a good question! Sangiovese is a grape variety that you need to know little bit about in order to appreciate it. If you sip for the first time a good Sangiovese and you are usually used to the Bordeaux Blend it can be a little bit difficult because Sangiovese has quite pronounced tannins and possibly some acidity which may grip your pallet if you're not used to it. Therefore, the best suggestion is to always pair with whatever food has a little bit of fat content. So, from salami, like a simple sandwich of cheese and ham, up to bold red or even white meat, and perfect with Scottish roast beef or lamb.’

How would you describe the Italian way of life?

‘We talk always about food of course, being with family and eating, having lots of fun. We can mix working and pleasure together; I consider myself fortunate because I do what I like, so even if I work 7 days a week sometimes it happens that I'm not tired and that's quite important! We try not to take ourselves too seriously and to enjoy life!’

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