One would think that all there is to discover in regards to Tuscan wineries has already been discovered. That’s until one discovers a pearl just a stone’s throw away from Gaiole, hidden away at the end of a dirt road: La Casa di Bricciano.
I stumbled upon the organic winery through Andrea Povia, owner and chef of the tiny trattoria in Gaiole, LE COSE BUONE. When he asked us what type of wine we’d like upon our first visit, I asked him to bring me an artisanal wine made in the area if he had it.
Andrea presented Bricciano’s 2013 Chianti Classico and I was quite impressed. Unpretentious, great bang for the buck and a wine which was still showing extremely young. Considering we ate at Andrea’s almost every night during our week stay in Gaiole, I also had the opportunity to taste various vintages and wines made by Rory Pentheny O’Kelly, winemaker at La Casa die Bricciano. Each one was very expressive and distinctive. I decided to drop by in the coming days during one of our rides.
When we arrived unannounced, Rory was in the middle of harvesting and needless to say, quite busy. His mother greeted us warmly and apologised for the “chaos”. This is a family run small-batch winery and considering most wineries were finished harvesting a week or more before, they were still at it and would be for a couple of more days. Though they only cultivate 3.3 hectares of vineyards, it’s the fact that they return multiple times to harvest the grapes in order to ensure each bunch has reached the proper level of maturation. So if they feel a bunch isn’t ready yet, they will leave it on the vine and come back the next day… again, again, and again. With such a small production, you can’t afford to bring in sub-par fruit.
We were offered a wine tasting (free of charge may I add), which we gladly accepted, even though we still had to ride back down to Gaiole. So spitting was on the agenda, though at some points in the tasting it was very difficult to do so due to the quality of juice in the glass.
As we were tasting, Rory found the time to sit with us and talk a bit about the current harvest, his winemaking philosophy and the winery in general. I had to stop him in between just to ask how old he is… 24 he answered. Wow, so young and making such serious wines. Respect!
Rory’s parents bought La Casa di Bricciano back in the 90’s. It was a farm which lay idle for quite a few years and boasted an original 800 year farm house. So after restoring the house his father began making plans to make their own wine. Rory’s father, born in South Africa, was an architect specialised in wineries and consulted for many large brands in the Chianti Classico region. Upon his sudden passing in 2014, Rory was forced to take over the reigns after having assisted his father since he was a teen. He continues the family’s philosophy of respect for the land and artisanal winemaking practices. Since 2009 the farm is certified organic. This wasn’t a marketing ploy; it’s just their way of life.
Due to the fact that the farm hadn’t been in operation for many years, the land had the time to reinvigorate itself naturally. So they had a very solid base to build on in regards to the sustainable farming practices they planned on implementing. The farm is 22 hectares in total, with just over 3 of these planted with vines and 4 with olive trees.
Upon viewing the vineyards, you can’t miss the green rows and how healthy they look, even during such a hot and difficult season like 2017. The barley planted between the rows helps remove excess nitrogen present when using organic fertilizer, making the vines grow too quickly. It also controls the water levels in the soil and controls erosion. In a year of high precipitation the barley will be allowed to grow fully, in a dry year it will be removed as early as possible in order to keep the vines as hydrated as possible.
In a dry year irrigation of the vines is allowed in Chianti Classico to a certain extent but this is a practice La Casa di Bricciano does not adopt. They assist the land in finding its balance and therefore produce the most authentic and expressive wines possible.
And upon tasting their wines, I’d say this philosophy is paying off. Definitely wines worth seeking out.
La Casa di Bricciano CHIANTI CLASSICO 2013
Blend: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Ruby, opaque. Very understated aromas of black berries, cherries and light notes of cinnamon & tobacco. Structured, fruit-forward with great tannic structure. Full bodied, great backbone, balanced and persistent finish. Mid+ complexity. Great food wine and price/quality ratio. Drink now or until 2020.
La Casa di Bricciano CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG RISERVA 2012
Blend: 85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep ruby in colour with light garnet reflexes. Great intensity and complexity on the nose, slightly more signs of maturity compared to the 2011 vintage. Intense, fruit-forward and broad on the mid-palate with mid+ complexity. Expressive and long finish. Drink now or until 2020.
La Casa di Bricciano CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG RISERVA 2011
Blend: 86% Sangiovese, 14% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep ruby with an enticing bouquet; intense and exceptional complexity. Think wild berries, black currant, elegant notes of maturity such as dark chocolate and tobacco. Very expressive, fresh, velvety and full-bodied with a long lasting finish. Great balance and harmony. A fantastic vintage!! Huge bang for the buck! Drink now or until 2022.
La Casa di Bricciano SANGIOVESE 2009 IGT Toscana
Blend: 98% Sangiovese, 2% Ancellotta
Deep crimson with light pink reflexes, still showing very young. Elegant oak accents and very clean, complex aromas of fruit and spice. Intense fruit on the palate, excellent mid-body structure, smooth and persistent. Juicy and fresh. Drink now or until 2022.
La Casa di Bricciano IL RITROVO 2007 IGT Toscana
Blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
Profound and opaque ruby with intense and complex aromas of stewed berries and spices. Rich and structured on the palate, fine tannin, still incredibly fresh for its age, extremely long finish. This wine just keeps you coming back for more. Though this wine is Bricciano’s flagship and costs north of €40 per bottle, I’ve tasted Super Tuscans or Bordeaux blends which easily cost double the price for the same quality. A keeper, for sure! Drink now or until 2025 and in this case, patience will definitely pay off.
Az. Agr. Biologica LA CASA DI BRICCIANO
Località Bricciano, 39
53013 Gaiole in Chianti, SI
Tel. +39.0577.749 297