Cooking to the Wine: Barone Ricasoli Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico & an Italian Twist on Pulled Pork

A few weeks ago I shared this post about our trip to Barone Ricasoli’s historical Castello di Brolio, the birthplace of the Chianti Classico recipe. I’d intended to follow it right up with this post sharing the rest of my visit, as well as how we enjoyed one of their wines at home. Of course, the holidays are a busy time and I fell behind with Thanksgiving prep. Better late than never! And the recipe pairing that we’ll get to further down in the post definitely needed to be shared.

On my visit to the winery, in addition to touring the castle and enjoying lunch at the restaurant, I also had the pleasure of having a long chat with winemaker Massimiliano Biagi. He walked me through many aspects of the terroir and shared details of the extensive research the winery has conducted in the region.

Massimiliano Biagi discussing soil types during the group tour and tasting. I got to speak with him in further depth afterwards. Sorry the pic is a bit fuzzy, as it was taken from far away

In my previous post I shared some of the Ricasoli’s amazing history. Now allow me to pass on some of the details Biagi shared with me about the modern-day research that’s been conducted at the winery. 

Let’s geek out!

Between 2005 and 2007, the Ricasoli began to replant sections of its vineyards and they took advantage of the situation to conduct in depth soil analyses. They found 19 different soil types on their property, but five that are particularly important. Biagi explained their characteristics to me at the time; however, happily they are also laid out on their website from where I’ve borrowed these descriptions:

1.  Limestone, here commonly called Alberese, on the Monte Morello formation. Calcareous clay soil, rocky, rich in calcium carbonate and clay   and poor in organic matter. The altitude ranges from 350 to 390 meters above sea level, southeast, southern, western exposure. Vines: predominantly Sangiovese, Cabernet  Sauvignon,  and   Merlot;   vine-density is 6,600  plants per hectare. Wines: excellent structure, body, and persistence, with soft and sweet tannins. The area is ideal for Sangiovese, and includes the Colledilà vineyard.

2. Galestro (schist-based soil) or Brolio’s argillite. The soils are very thin and the geological formations found in this area are the Scaglia Toscana and the Macigno del Chianti Formation. The altitude ranges from 400 to 500 meters above sea level, vineyard exposure to the west, northwest, and south; vine- density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Vines: Sangiovese. Wine with high tannin content, complex structure, and intense minerality.

3.  Marine deposits. Pliocene marine sediments, with sandy deposits and rocks smoothed by the action of the sea, and clay at deeper levels. Good levels of organic matter. Altitudes in this area range from 300 to 350 meters above sea level,  variable  exposure,  vine-density from  5,500 to 6,600  plants per hectare. Vines: predominantly Sangiovese. Wines  produced  from  these soils are fresh, with  spicy notes, elegant acidity  and  distinct minerality. (In addition to added freshness, he noted as well that these wines tended to be deeper in color.)

4.  Ancient Fluvial Terrace (simply put, river stones). Fluvial-lacustrine deposits formed in the Pliocene-Pleistocene period. The deposits are silty, poorly structured, with clay. The altitude varies between 260 to 300 meters above sea level, southern exposure. Vines: Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, vine-density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Wines with a complex range of aromas, well-structured, high tannin content, body, and persistence. (He explained to me that once upon a time, an avalanche shifted the position of these soils. These wines tend to show more balsamic herbs than some of the others.)

5.   Sandstone. This soil is commonly called Arenarie,  on the Macigno del Chianti Formation, composed by sands and rocks, well drained and furnished with little organic matter. High elevations ranging from 400 to 500 meters above sea level and variable exposure, vine-density from 5,500 to 6,600 plants per hectare. Vines: Sangiovese, Merlot, Chardonnay. The soils yield complex and well-structured wines. This area is especially well suited to viticulture and includes part of the Casalferro vineyard. (While Alberese and Galestro are quite famed soils of the region, Biagi also noted this soil as a “backbone” of Chianti Classico.)

Examples of stones from the different terroirs on display at Castello di Brolio

They harvest and vinify all plots separately, and do 2 harvests for each plot. With all of this specificity, they’re planning to expand their single vineyard bottling lines. (Examples of two of these wines are described below.)

In addition, the winery has done a lot of research into the Sangiovese clones on their property. Prior to starting to replant, they took clonal selections from the vines that were to be replaced. There were 50 different selections, 10 of which were preferred. They began making official selections, then studied and observed how these did. Two of the Sangiovese clonal selections were submitted to the national registry , as well as one of Colorino.

They’ve also begun studying and cataloguing the native yeasts on the property. At the point of this visit, Biagi noted that they’d found two specific yeasts that they really like above the others, and are studying how to cultivate these preferred native yeasts.

They farm sustainably. They do use some selectively spray in a very targeted way when needed, but the sprays are tested to make sure they have minimal impact on the environment. That also have weather stations that are able to check for diseases. Information from these stations gets sent to a university for analysis, so that they might be alerted of any problems and treat them early.

Wines Tasted On Location

Tasting at the winery. Note: my visit was comped as a member of the media and the wine industry. No other compensation was received for this post.

I had the pleasure of tasting several of their wines, including the Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 and the Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, which I shared in the previous post. Here are a few more brief notes on wines tasted on the visit:

Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Blend: Sangiovese 80%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%.
Production Area: Estate in Chianti Classico. This wine comes from vineyards reflecting the five  geological areas described at elevations between 290 meters to 500 meters (853 to 1, 640 feet high) and with different exposures. Vineyard soils vary greatly but all are strewn with stony fragments adding mineral richness.
Aging: 9 months in tonneaus of second and third passage.
Nose: Sour cherry, flowers, fresh herbs, particularly rosemary and bit of cedar.
Palate: The sour cherry comes back, tomato leaf, cedar. Fresh and fruity.
Recommended pairings: Panini, pasta with ragu.


Casalferro Toscana 2015

Blend: 100% Merlot.
Production Area: Single vineyard wine named for the vineyard on the estate located at  400 meters above sea level and facing south. The soils are brown clay loam with little organic content. They found this vineyard produces rather extraordinary Merlot and decided to make it on it’s own. It’s only made in the best years.
Aging: 18 months into tonneaux, 30% new oak.
Nose: Cedar, menthol, green olives, cherry, red plum, cassis, and rosemary.
Palate: Bright and lush with lots of herbs. Pepper, spice and vanilla, with light hints of flowers mixed in with the herbs. Velvety up front with a little tannic grip on the finish.
Recommended Pairings: Lamb chops, boar, game with rosemary. 

Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015

Blend: 100% Sangiovese.
Production area: This is a single vineyard wine named for the particular vineyard on their Chianti Classico Estate. Colledilà vineyard is on the Monte Morello geological formation called Monte Morello with Alberese soils.  It is located at 390 meters above sea level and has a southeastern exposure.
Aging: 18 months in 500-litre tonneaus of which 30% new and 70% second passage.
Nose: Pine needles, roses and a little orange peel, and cherries.
Palate: Sour cherry and black tea. Velvety up front, but very grippy on the finish. Definitely still a very young wine and needs more time, but was lovely even in its youth.


Pairing Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico at Home

I brought several wines home from our trip, but the one I opened on this occasion was the Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico 2015 because this is the wine they see as being a modern representation of the “Ricasoli Formula” laid out by Barone Bettino Ricasol in 1872, as described in this post. In addition to Sangiovese, it has 10% Abrusco (their clone of Colorino).

On the day we opened this up at home, Greg and I picked up notes of black tea, orange peel, herbs, dried cherries, and tomato water. The fruits were less dried on the palate, and there was a mix of red and black cherries and strawberry leather. There were lots of woodsy cedar notes, as well as herbs, warm spices, tobacco, and a hint of tar.The secondary (wood) and tertiary (age) notes were hitting out palate first, but were very well incorporated, especially after giving the wine some air. It was medium bodied, with fresh, medium+ acidity, and smooth, medium tannins.

Given the structure of the wine, we decided on a dish that would have some richness, since the structure of the wine seemed like it could handle it, and also because the weather was already starting to turn chilly. The wine didn’t seem to need a heavy meat, so we opted for pork. I decided to make an Italian take on pulled pork flavored with lots of herbs and spices reflecting those we’d tasted in the wine. 

Since we had a party to go to in the afternoon, I decided to prepare the pork in my slow cooker in the morning, so as to have dinner waiting for us in the evening. I find that pulled pork freezes well, so I made a lot to have plenty of leftovers. I used  a few of different recipes as guidelines, but I particularly liked the suggestion in this one to us the oven to initially brown the pork. I was going to sear it on the stove-top, which is faster, but this is much easier.) I also made a simple white bean side dish, partly because I thought they’d add to the cozy, comfort food factor of the meal, and as well because beans are a key part of Tuscan cuisine.

It was a great pairing! The combination helped further smooth out the tannins in the wine. The flavors in the wine and the food mirrored each other, as hoped.  Additionally, the fruit flavors were brought into further focus in the combo – the cherry in the wine in particular began to shine through even more when sipped with the food. 


Geeky Details for the Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico 2015

Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Abrusco (colorino).

Fermentation: Traditional in small stainless steel tanks. Maceration on the skins for 14-16 days at controlled temperature of 24°C-27° C (75.2°– 80.6°F).
Aging: 18 months in big casks and at least three/six months in the bottle. Unfiltered wine.
Average Price: $20. (Per for this vintage. I purchased my bottle at the winery.) I think that’s a really great buy for classic example of the style from a benchmark producer. I’ll call it an Overachiever.

Slow Cooker Italian Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Italian Pulled Pork

Yield: 12 to 15
prep time: 15 Mcook time: 10 hourtotal time: 10 H & 15 M


Spice Rub
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp fennel pollen or fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 5.5 to 6 lbs Boston Butt Pork (shoulder)
  • 4 tsp Wondra flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 14.5-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup stock (I used pork stock, but chicken or vegetable stock is fine)
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1-2 Bay Leaves
  • Pinch of orange zest
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil


How to cook Slow Cooker Italian Pulled Pork

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  2.  Mix together the ingredients for the rub.
  3.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the pork. Sprinkle about half of the spice mixture and generous sprinkling of salt over the pork and rub in well. Place in a roasting pan, then sprinkle a dusting of flour over the top. (You can use regular flour for this part, if you prefer.) Place the pan in the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned on top. You’re essentially trying to achieve a sear, so you want some color. Feel free to switch to the broiler setting for a couple of minutes if you want to deepen the color further.
  4. Place the onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes in the slow cooker with the remaining spic rub mix and a generous sprinkling of salt. Carefully transfer the pork to the slow cooker, then add the remaining ingredients. Mix 4 tablespoons of Wondra flour with ½ cup of water (or per package instructions) and add to the pot as well. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours, or until the pork falls apart easily with a fork.
  5. If the sauce in the pot is too liquidy at the end of the cooking time, transfer the liquid to a pot on the stove and simmer uncovered until it has reduced to a desired consistency.  (Tip: If you’re making the white beans as a side dish for the pork, save ½ -1 cup to use as cooking liquid.)
  6. Transfer pork to a bowl and shred with two forks. Once it’s all shredded, mix together with the sauce and serve

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White Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Yield: 4 to 6
prep time: 10 Mcook time: 20 Mtotal time: 30 M


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 (15-oz) cans white beans (like cannellini or great northern beans)
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ cup cooking liquid or stock of your choice (i.e. chicken, veggie, etc. Note: In this case I used some reserved cooking liquid from the pork. Even water will do in a pinch.) Use more as needed.
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Olive oil


How to cook White Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes

  1. Pour a little olive oil (a tablespoon or so) into a pot, and sweat the onions over medium heat with a pinch of salt and pepper until soft and translucent – about 10 minutes. Add a little liquid to the pot if the onions begin to brown.
  2. Add the white beans to the pot, followed by the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and oregano. Gradually add the cooking liquid or stock, until your preferred consistency is reached. (Keep more on hand to add as needed.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Serve.

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Bonus tidbit: Last month I had the chance to attend a great event at One Market Restaurant in SF to celebrate the launch of Sip Trip, a new online show with Jeff Porter on VinePair. Lo and behold, Castello di Brolio is featured in the very episode which focuses on Chianti Classico. If you're not planning a trip to Tuscany anytime soon, you can check out the winery via the show! Check it out here.  

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