So, after six glorious hours at Casanova di Neri (four touring and tasting and two lingering over a delectable late lunch at Neri’s Relais restaurant), the 10 of us returned to our Italian VRBO getaway for a relaxed evening.
The next day, contrary to our original plans, we all split up, some to go to Venice, some to Rome, and some to Egypt. Those who had to leave were disappointed that they missed our next Tuscan wine adventure.
The folks at Brancaia were very welcoming, even when we told them to expect almost a dozen Americans. I imagine they heaved a sigh of relief when they learned that only three of us would be descending on them.
Brancaia carries a reputation as one of the top Chianti Classico estates. My first task was to learn how to pronounce the name. Fortunately, as we were in Italy to celebrate our youngest son’s nuptials to a lovely Italian lass, I queried her on how to say the name of the winery without sounding like a complete doofus. Unfortunately, my son proved to be of no help – he said it was pronounced “Bronchitis.”
Lucky for me Virginia (my new daughter-in-law) was listening. She gave me a phonetic way of saying it – brawn-ki-ya.
As I mentioned, Brancaia’s reputation precedes it. The Wine Advocate has bestowed scores of 94 to 97 on several of its wines, calling both the wine and winery “famous” and producing “landmark wines.” Wine Spectator has been positively effusive in its praise of Brancaia, naming the 2007 Brancaia Tre the 10th best of all the thousands of wines it tasted in 2009, saying, “There’s wonderful intensity of fruit in this wine, with crushed raspberry and blackberry and hints of coffee and fresh flowers. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, soft-textured finish that shows loads of fruit.”
So, Terry, our friend Sandra, and I were excited to follow such excellency that we had discovered at Casanova di Neri with another stellar example of what Italy has to offer to a wine-loving world.
You know how many places are described as “being off the beaten path?” Well, Brancaia left the “beaten path” in the dust on our journey to their operation in Radda in Chianti. We got off the highway and travelled on a mostly dirt road for what seemed like 2 miles. I was growing concerned that I had ourselves hopelessly lost when a sign appeared announcing Brancaia.
Brancaia has three vineyards; one in Castellina in Chianti, one in Radda in Chianti (that’s where we went), and one in Maremma.
Giuditta Bianciardi greeted us after we checked in. She gave us an in-depth tour of the vineyard and the wine making facilities.
As Giuditta told us, Brancaia’s history goes back a few decades. In 1981, Brigitte and Bruno Widmer acquired Brancaia. The Widmers were from Switzerland. They had come to Tuscany in 1980 for a Christmas visit to Castellina. Bruno said this about the time there: “From the house of our friend Ruedi Bettschart we saw this beautiful piece of earth,” he recalls. “The whole area was covered in morning fog, but Brancaia was in the sun. A magical sight!”
Forty years later under the stewardship of their daughter, Barbara Widmer, they are the proud proprietors of a world-class winery.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.