One of the most important figures in Tuscany's Chianti Classico region, Bettino Ricasoli, died on the afternoon of May 17 at his home in Florence, Italy. He was 87.
Ricasoli, the 31st baron of Brolio, devoted his life to his two main passions, wine and politics. He was president of the Chianti Classico Consortium and served as mayor of Gaiole in Chianti, one of Chianti Classico's most important towns, from 1951 to 1960. He later became a member of the town council of Florence.
In 1993, Ricasoli, together with his son Francesco, reacquired the Castello di Brolio brand name, which had been sold to Seagram in the early 1970s, though the family had continued to manage the estate during that period. The father-and-son team then set about restoring the estate's finances and implementing a quality drive in the vineyards and winery, calling on the services of renowned consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini. Together they made Ricasoli's Chianti Classico Brolio and the "riserva-style" Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio excellent wines in the appellation.
"His passing signifies a great loss," said Piero Antinori, president of Antinori. "He was not only a great name in Chianti Classico, but was also an exceptional person. When I started in the wine business, I was almost intimidated by him, but later we became friends and collaborated on many projects. He maintained a generous and correct, gentlemanly manner, even when he was beset with difficulties during the '70s and '80s. That's a quality which is hard to find these days."
"He loved Brolio," said Ferrini, who continues to consult at the estate, "and was keen on any innovation that would result in better wine. Yet, at the same time, he always wanted to remain as far as possible within the bounds of tradition."
In his later years, Ricasoli remained president of the Barone Ricasoli company, while his son Francesco, the 32nd baron, ran the estate, which includes nearly 600 acres of vineyards, producing 2.5 million bottles a year.
Ricasoli was a descendant of the famous "Iron Baron," also named Bettino Ricasoli (1809-1880), a prominent politician in the Italian "Risorgimento" movement that led to the unification of Italy, and who later became prime minister. The Iron Baron reportedly devised the "formula" for the Sangiovese blend that was to become Chianti Classico, writing of the blend to a colleague.
Ricasoli is survived by his wife, Costanza Romanelli, three children and five grandchildren.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions