Now that you’ve been properly introduced to Brancaia and its winemaker, Barbara Widmer, let’s talk about their wines.
Giuditta, our delightful hostess whom I mentioned in my first column, provided us with a masterful presentation of nine of Brancaia’s offerings.
We started with the 2022 rosé (100% merlot); then to 2022 Il Bianco (100% sauvignon blanc); followed by 2021 Tre (70% Sangiovese, 15% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon); the 2021 Chianti Clasico (100% Sangiovese); then the 2020 Chianti Clasico Riserva (80% Sangiovese and 20% merlot); staying with Chianti, the 2019 Chianti Clasico Gran Selezione (100% Sangiovese, with 30 months of age, divided into 18 months in oak barrels followed by one year in tanks); the 2021 N°2 (100% cabernet sauvignon, aged for a year in oak barrels); followed by the 2019 Ilatraia (40% petit verdot, 40% cabernet sauvignon, and 20% cabernet Franc), as well as the 2006 vintage of this wine; then concluding with the 2019 Il Blu (80% merlot, 10% Sangiovese, and 10% cabernet sauvignon). They used to make a Viognier but climate change forced them to give that up.
Quite the lineup, going from strength to strength.
Brancaia is proudly organic, a practice Barbara learned while interning at a winery in Switzerland. It produces 700,000 bottles per year. The winery uses both huge, concrete tanks as well as oak barrels. The barrels have a four-year life. Brancaia uses either fresh barrels or ones that have been used only once.
Sandra found some of her favorite wines she encountered in Italy during our visit to Brancaia. For instance, she raved over the 2021 N°2, remarking that she liked it a lot! She opined that it was as good as any California cabernet, quite drinkable, mellow and smooth. Terry enjoyed the blackberry, mint, vanilla and baking spices nose. She noted the chocolate and blackberry notes in the flavor, as well as the long and balanced tannins. In her mind even though the winery recommends holding this vintage for another four years, she found it very tasty right now. For me, at about $25/bottle, this is an outstanding value. And I agreed with Giuditta – this will benefit mightily from about five years in a cellar.
Amazingly, rising above the 2021 N°2 (given its great reception), was the 2006 Ilatraia, another great buy at about $70. Sandra’s review, simply, “This is the best!” Terry loved the black cherry and berry aromas and the tastes of berry, vanilla, licorice and oak. Both she and Sandra rated this a 98, near perfection.
As I’ve said in prior columns, being able to taste different vintages of the same wine side-by-side provides the opportunity to see if a wine improves with age or not. I really liked the 2019 Ilatraia, with its intoxicating bouquet. I found it an excellent example of what great Bordeaux wine can be, since the same grapes from Bordeaux make up Ilatraia. And the 2006 demonstrated the great potential of this wine. You can see how the 2019 will mature elegantly. The 2006 aged in 50% new oak and 50% used oak barrels. If you see this at a store or in a restaurant, don’t pass up the chance to taste this delightful Super Tuscan.
I enjoyed all of the wines we tried, but I want to make sure and discuss what I would describe as Brancaia’s signature wine, 2019 Il Blu. Still reasonable at about $85/bottle, for me, this was the highlight of the tasting. Featuring a beautiful dark, red color, remember that this is a young wine with lots of aging potential.
At this stage, it takes a while for this wine to show itself. At first, the aromas are muted but it opens up after sitting in the glass for 15 to 20 minutes. It has a powerful finish, with luscious saddle leather nose and blackberry and forest notes on the palate. The tannins put Sandra off. Unfortunately, this often happens with a potent but young wine – the tannins are simply too overwhelming. Terry projects that Il Blu, in about eight years, will mature into a 96- or 97-point wine.
Barbara and Giuditta, thank you for a wonderful visit. Your wines are tasty, and your estate is magnificent. And your hospitality rises above it all.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.