Chianti Classico's Barone Ricasoli is about to register its own Sangiovese clone with the Italian ministry of agriculture.
In tandem with a comprehensive zoning study at Ricasoli’s 1,200ha Brolio estate (pictured) – which has some 230ha under vine – two or three Sangiovese biotypes, or clones, will be submitted next year to the ministry.
If accepted, the new clones will be known as the Brolio clones, and will be included in the Italian National Catalogue of Grapevine Cultivars, which lists 74 officially recognised Sangiovese clones.
‘We are concentrating on Sangiovese because it is the variety that we know least about, but it is the most important to us,’ estate owner Francesco Ricasoli said.
Experimentation with different Sangiovese biotypes began during the comprehensive replanting of the Brolio estate in the mid-1990s, just after Ricasoli bought back the ancient property from Australian corporation BRL Hardy, into whose hands the estate had passed since it was sold to Seagram in the 1960s.
The experiments were put on a serious scientific footing in 2003, ‘using the appropriate techniques in order to define a clone’, writes vineyard director Massimiliano Biagi.
According to ministry guidelines, ‘The aim of the clonal selection is the identification, within a vine-population, of biotypes having improved characteristics or judged genetically interesting.’
The zoning study at Brolio, carried out in collaboration with the acricultural research units at Florence and Arezzo, is the biggest of its kind in Chianti, Ricasoli says.
The research is centred on 11 plots at the 40ha Torricella vineyard, examining major soil types and their compatibility with different rootstocks and Sangiovese clones.
Torricella contains examples of all the major soil types found in Chianti: sandstone, schist (called Galestro in Chianti), limestone or Alberese, and sand, gravel and clay marine deposits.
‘This will fix a particular expression of Sangiovese in a particular soil type,’ Ricasoli said, adding that the research would be invaluable to other producers in Chianti.
Francesco Ricasoli’s ancestor Bettino Ricasoli, known as the Iron Baron, as well as being instrumental in the unification of Italy and one of its first prime ministers, also set out the first formula for Chianti Classico.
In the 1890s he came up with the basic blend: an average 70% Sangiovese, along with 15% Canaiolo, and 15% Trebbiano – a white grape – and sometimes a little Colorino (red). Today Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are used along with Sangiovese.
Written by Adam Lechmere