Bettino Ricasoli, 87, descendant of the Iron Baron and leading Chianti producer, dies

According to an obituary published yesterday by the Corriere Fiorentino, Bettino Ricasoli, 87, the great-great-grandson of “Iron Baron” Bettino Ricasoli and steward of one of the leading families of Chianti Classico, has died.

Although he never published a “formula” or “recipe” for Chianti (as many erroneously claim), Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880) reshaped the history of Chianti and Tuscan winemaking in the 19th century when he famously declared that Sangiovese (or Sangioveto, as the Tuscan clone of Sangiovese was known then) was the ideal grape for the production of fine wine there. In an often cited but rarely revisited 1872 letter to Professor Cesare Studiati of Pisa (see below), Ricasoli described the process of study that led to the replanting of his Castello di Brolio estate in Gaiole in Chianti (one of the core townships of Chianti Classico).

    Bettino Ricasoli “the Iron Baron” to Cesare Studiati
    September 26, 1872

    As early as 1840, I began experimenting with every grape variety. I cultivated each one in significant quantities on my Brolio estate. Our goal was to test the quality and taste of the wines produced from each grape.

    Following this comparative study, I restricted the number of grapes at Brolio and began growing Sangioveto, Canaiolo, and Malvasia almost exclusively. In 1867, I decided once again to make wine using these three grapes. I made a relatively large vat of each one and then I blended the three in another vat using exact proportions.

    In March of last year, the experiment was finished and I was satisfied with the results. The wines were subsequently shipped.

    Later I verified the results of the early experiments: the Sangioveto gave the wine its primary aroma (something I aim for in particular) and a certain vigor in taste; the Canaiolo gave it a sweetness that balanced the harshness of the former but did not take away from the aroma, even though it has an aroma of its own; the Malvasia, a grape that can be excluded for wines intended for aging, tends to dilute the resulting wine created by the former two, it increases the flavor but also makes the wine lighter and thus more suitable for daily consumption.

    Translation by VinoWire

The Iron Baron, as he was known for his stern demeanor, was one of the architects of Italian Unification and was Italy’s second (1861-62) and seventh (1866-67) prime minister.

His great-great-grandson Bettino is survived by son Francesco Ricasoli, the current CEO of the Ricasoli brands.

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2 thoughts on “Bettino Ricasoli, 87, descendant of the Iron Baron and leading Chianti producer, dies

  1. Pingback: Eating tripe with Baron Ricasoli « Do Bianchi

  2. Pingback: What would the Iron Baron Ricasoli say if he were alive today? « Do Bianchi

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