Did you know that Chianti region, as we know it, was born in the XIX century thanks to the genius and determination of some men of that time? The most important of all was Bettino Ricasoli, Baron of Brolio, also called “Iron Baron” for his resolute character: he was also a prominent politician, prime minister of the newborn united Italy.
In that time, the Chianti area, in the center of Tuscany, was covered with woods and was considered a tough and fairly isolated area. It took at least 30 years of care and study, to transform it. Bettino Ricasoli changed the way of cultivating the vine and increased the number of plants grown ones choosing the best variety for Italian wine: Sangiovese, Cannaiolo, Malvasia, which are the basis of the Chianti Classico. In 1851, with the pretext of going to the great Universal Exposition in London, Ricasoli across France and all major wine regions such as Beaujolais, Borgogne and Languedoc, visiting chateaux and wineries. So he learned a new grape growing technique: ” a filare”, that is “in rows”, which is the one we see today. Before, the vine was cultivated in Tuscany with the technique named “alberata” from the word “albero”, tree: the vines growing on a tree resting, doing so they produced many bunches, but of low quality. With this new cultivation the growth of the fruits is controlled, the plant is not stressed out and produces a better quality of grapes, more rich in sugar and yeast. Ricasoli forced the “mezzadri”, sharecroppers of his estate to cultivate the vines in rows and expanded the land of vineyards, to obtain larger quantities of grapes. Later he went on to study the winemaking techniques and aging with the help of scientists; he changed, for example, the wood the barrels were made, buying new oak barrels, as he had seen in France. And these efforts produced results: in 1873, during the World Expo in Vienna, there were major awards for italian red wines of Brolio.
All his life, Bettino Ricasoli devoted himself to research “sublime” wine, getting up early in the morning to write and sign documents and then going on the farms and in cellars, until the evening. He died in 1880, but many say that across the Chianti his ghost still rides on horseback accompanied by a pack of dogs. Perhaps during your italian vacation package, enjoying a Tuscany wine tour, you’ll meet him!