To The Roots Of Chianti Classico: A Hike Up To The Brolio Castle
By Daria Radler
I am walking along a gravel road that zigzags through the woods. The atmosphere feels unimposing, though one of Tuscany’s most important castles waits at the top of the hill. Here and there, a sign points to a supposed shortcut. 600 meters feel oddly long — slightly suspicious but charming nonetheless. When I step out of the forest at last, I am facing the majestic walls of the castle.
Castello di Brolio isn’t just any castle. Not only has it belonged to the Ricasoli family since 1141, it is also the place where Baron Ricasoli wrote down the first known Chianti Classico formula in 1872. His recommendation: 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca. As I pass through the castle gate and step inside the walls, the impact of all this history is palpable.
A group of fellow travelers mirrors my sentiment. “Amazing,” they mouth over and over again, their eyes moving along the brick walls while their minds, like mine, try to wrap themselves around the concept of time. History books tell the stories of the past millennium while the Ricasoli family passed on its tradition from generation to generation, withstanding the lasting rivalries of Florence and Siena and still filling the Brolio castle’s walls with life to this day.
Refracted light shines through the windows of the chapel I find along the suggested path. Emotions are building within me, lifting and clenching my heart all at once as I discover the narrow stone steps that lead to the family tomb below. The air down here is filled with moisture. While my eyes are adjusting to the darkness around me, I am glad to have this intimate moment to myself.
Once again surrounded by daylight, I continue my walk around the castle. As it turns out, history has left its marks everywhere. Parts of the walls stem from the Middle Ages, the same time the Ricasoli family started to produce wine. Still, the architecture has evolved with time: often damaged or even destroyed during the political tensions of the centuries, the Castello di Brolio has always been reconstructed in the style of the current age.
Enchantment of the Past
The red brick facade holds my gaze as I make out the missing pieces in the wall — holes left by shrapnel during the Second World War. I stand on the edge of the giant terrace. Below, there is an Italian garden — precisely cut and kept in shape — with endless vineyard vistas in the background. As I’m facing the castle without a single soul in sight, I’m spending a moment in history: consumed by what was, enchanted by what is, anticipating what will be.