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A Great Chianti Classico Estate Struts Its Terroirs
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jun 18, 2019
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Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione; “Colledilá,” “Roncione” and “Ceniprimo” 2015 and 2016 (Folio Wine Estates):  I am an unabashed fan of Chianti Classico -- the region, the wines, the people, the history.  Chianti Classico is the soul seat of Tuscany, as Tuscany is the heart of Italian wine.

One of the inspiring modern figures in Chianti Classico is Francesco Ricasoli, owner and president of Ricasoli and the 32nd generation Baron of Brolio.  He is the great-grandson of Bettino Ricasoli who was Italy’s second Prime Minister, in the mid-19th century, and who proposed the historic blend for Chianti Classico that was adopted into the wine’s DOC regulations before becoming outdated in modern times.  In the 1970s the Brolio estate was purchased by a multinational company and the brand quickly lost its lustre.  In 1993, young Francesco Ricasoli purchased back the property and the Barone Ricasoli company name. Gradually, he has brought new life to the estate’s vineyards -- the largest vineyard acreage in Chianti Classico -- and today Brolio produces several of the most exciting of all Chianti Classico wines.

Nine years ago in this column I raved about the 2007 Colledilá Chianti Classico, a new, all-Sangiovese, single-site cru wine that Francesco developed following years of research into the soils and grapes of the estate.  The vineyard-mapping research didn’t end, and now Ricasoli’s cru Chianti Classico wines number three.  Each is entirely Sangiovese but from several clones, each hails from a specific terroir within the Brolio estate with a specific soil profile and altitude, and each is aged not in barriques but in tonneaux (132 gallons), only 30 percent of which are new.  They are all Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines but they are each very distinctive.

I recently tasted the 2015 and 2016 vintages of each of the three wines.  (The 2015 vintage of each wine is either available now or soon to arrive in the U.S., and the 2016 vintage will become available early in 2020.)  The three crus are so distinctive that I found it impossible to choose a favorite.  Although my scores were the lowest for the two vintages of Roncione, for example, I scribbled an enthusiastic “star” next to them because they grabbed me on some emotional level.

At 26 acres, Roncione is the largest of the three single vineyards and in altitude (320m), it lies between the other two…lower than Colledilá (380m) and higher than Cenirimo (300m).  The 2015 has excellent acidity that forms a spine for the wine’s soft texture and round mouth impression; the aroma is penetrating and almost saline, and the flavors of red plum and tart red cherry are concentrated and fresh.  Ricasoli and his technical director, Massimiliano Biagi, agreed that it is “more vertical” than the Colledilá and described it as “a true Sangiovese that wants to get to your palate without being sexy.”  Those words might or might not mean anything to you, but to a long-time Chianti Classico lover like me, they spoke to the truth.  The 2016 Roncione was fuller and more ample, lit from within by acidity, with a spicy, edgy, lean, mineral-driven style.

I gave my highest score to Ceniprimo 2015.  It is the newest of the three crus, nearly 16 acres in size, from an alluvial site where the grapes are able to hang longer for maximum ripening.  The 2015 is a solid, substantial Chianti Classico with red cherry and floral notes and velvety tannin that permeated the wine over the whole length of the tongue, like a good Brunello di Montalcino.  The 2016 was full and supple while the tannins provide internal depth and delineation.

Colledilá is a limestone-influenced site of 19 acres.  I rated the 2015 just half a point below the 2015 Ceniprimo.  Its aroma is complex and rich: my notes recall tobacco, floral tones, orange peel, red cherry.  The wine is harmonious, supple, long and graceful and yet has plenty of (soft) tannin structure, which lends an edginess that the 2016 lacked.  The 2016 was a bit fuller and rounder, redolent of red and black cherry, with silky texture and also very good depth.

In general, I preferred the 2015s to the 2016s, for their relatively lean and edgy style compared to the rounder 2016s.  That’s my taste, especially in young Chianti Classico.

My scores for these wines were so tightly clustered that I won’t give wine-by-wine scores.  How tightly clustered?  From 92 to 94, with only half-points and ‘+’ signs separating many wines.  These are all great wines and they are impressive Chianti Classicos.  You can’t go wrong with any one of them.