Chianti and Brunello, the brand names

Inspired by that Prince of Paronamasia, Thor, I was tempted to entitle this post, “Brand on the Run”… But have you ever known me to mince words?

Above: The Castello di Brolio, site of the Ricasoli winery. The “Iron Baron” Ricasoli, winemaker and Italy’s second prime minister, re-branded Chianti in the late 19th century when he replanted his vineyards with Sangiovese. Would he recognize the wine his family makes today?

Reading Eric the Red’s brutally honest column on Chianti Classico yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder out loud: would the “Iron Baron” Ricasoli, father of pre-industrial Chianti Classico, recognize the wines that his family makes today?

Even more chilling was the thought: in the light of Montalcino’s “vote for modernism,” as Ms. Robinson put it, is Brunello heading down the same path as Chianti Classico?

In other words, will we not recognize the wines that are going to be made there 20 or 30 years from now, leaving us as befuddled as Eric and his colleagues? “Of the 20 glasses before us,” wrote Eric, “many did not look like Chianti Classicos, the designation for Chiantis made in the Chianti region’s heartland in the hills of Tuscany. Or at least they did not look the way I expect a Chianti Classico to look.”

By the time Ricasoli was purchased by behemoth Seagram’s in the 1970s, Chianti had already achieved antonomastic status in the collective consciousness of the American consumer. In other words, it had become synonymous with “Italian wine.”

I cannot tell you how many times I come across the common misconception that Italians pair pizza with Chianti. The other day, a young Sicilian woman here in Austin told me that the traditional pairing for Parmigiano Reggiano was Chianti.

As the apologetic title of the column reveals (“Tasting Report: Chianti Classicos, So Dark and Oaky, but Still Recognizable”), the wines that Eric and colleagues tasted did not resemble the wines that they expected to uncork. In fact, “Many were densely colored and dark, almost impenetrable in their blackness.”

As rumors of corporate take-overs in Montalcino abound (reminiscent of the heady Seagram’s years), I fear I see a (literally) dark cloud in my wine horizon. To borrow a phrase, from Mel Brooks, “Let’s hope for the best…” You already know the next line…

6 thoughts on “Chianti and Brunello, the brand names

  1. ciao! I am silent reader of ur blog in Sudcorea.
    I do my wine importing biz and continuously am seeking real(oppure original) Chianti Classico for Korean but still I can not find one.
    so many black clouds on Belpaese,,,no?

  2. You mention the purchase of Castello di Brolio by Seagram’s in the 1970s, but readers should realize that the winery was purchased back by the family in the 1980s and remains that way today.

    Ironically, however, while there was a return to quality early on, the wines today are more international than ever.

  3. As a member of the Chianti Classico tasting panel at the times I do not think that Eric’s column was brutal. The wine has become a former shadow of it self. Both Florence and I “felt that the classic aromas and flavors of Chianti – tart cherry and violets,along with earthy mineral and dusty tannins- were overshadowed by toasty cocoa flavors inparted by new oak barrels” Eric does not go far enough- I also found them lacking in adicity and in a blind tasting would not be able to pick them out as Chianti. Much the same problems I found at the “Barbara Meeting” in March. In the past Chianti Classico Riserva was a wine that could age- even with white graps and the governo method- where is the sense of place, where is the aroma of sunshine on the Tuscan pines-where is the taste and feel of Tuscany- not in these wines. See TOM Marescs’s Tom’s Wine Line on Chianti and my answer to him on many of the same issues. wwwcharlesscicolone> By the way I like pizza Margarita with Chianti.

  4. I think its important to note that Eric also wrote, “Regardless of the dark colors, and despite the fact that more than a few of the wines were overly oaky, they still seemed to me to adhere to a Chianti identity, however tenuously.”

    I recently interviewed Rocce delle Macíe’s wonderful sommelier, Georgeta Perhard, on this subject. Her perspective is worth hearing, and I’ll post it on my blog asap.

  5. Pingback: Fine Old Italians | HMWS Blog

  6. Pingback: 2005 Casalino Chianti Classico Riserva « Winefan73's Blog

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