Bettino Ricasoli, 31st Baron of Brolio, has died aged 87.
Ricasoli was a Doctor of Agronomy whose life spanned the 20th century, from the bleak days of mezzadria share-cropping to today’s thriving owner-producer enterprises.
From 1950 to 1961 he was mayor of Gaiole in Chianti, and was president of the Chianti Classico consortium from 1958 to 1974.
He was descended from a noble line of statesmen, including the so-called Barone di Ferro (the Iron Baron), also Bettino, who was twice prime minister of Italy in the 19th century, and was responsible for developing the statute of the original Chianti Classico appellation in 1932.
This was the first to set down the blend of 80% Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino for Chianti Classico.
At the beginning of the 1970s Barone Ricasoli sold the name Castello di Brolio to the Canadian multinational Seagram. The family continued to manage the land, while Seagram sold the wines in the traditional Chianti fiasco under the Castello di Brolio label.
There followed 20 years of aggressive global marketing – a period the family prefers to forget – until in 1993 Ricasoli and his son Francesco bought the name back and relaunched the estate.
Today the 12th century Castello di Brolio estate is one Chianti Classico’s largest and most renowned producers, with a total of 240ha of vineyards and production of 2.5m bottles.
He leaves his wife Costanza Romanelli, children Luisa, Maria Teresa and Francesco, and grandchildren Caterina, Francesca, Benedetta, Alvise and Sofia
Francesco is CEO of Castello di Brolio.
Written by Michele Shah