This well-known producer of Chianti Classico and Supertuscan wines has a peculiar history around it’s origins. The story goes like this: Bruno Witmer (the proprietor) decided to go on holiday in Tuscany back in 1980. He fell in love with the place (surprise!), and the next year he decided to buy a Tuscan farmhouse – except he wasn’t allowed to buy the home without buying the surrounding land, all planted in vines. Over time, Bruno’s passion for wines from the region resulted in him purchasing more vineyard land until what we have now is collectively called Casa Brancaia.
What changed Bruno’s fortunes was the graduation of his daughter Barbara Witmer with a degree in enology, and the beginning of experimentation in quality winemaking using the azienda’s prolific vineyards. Brancaia and it’s winemaking is seated in Poppi near Radda in Chianti, but they have vines in the clayey soil near Castellina in Chianti, as well as plantings of vineyard in the Tuscan Maremma where they produce Morellino di Scansano.
Brancaia is best known for their Supertuscan wines made with a blend of Sangiovese and International varietals. In particular, the big, big Brancaia Blu (red wine, Sangiovese + Merlot + Cabernet Sauvignon, 50K bottles, €45) is a mouthful, with intense fruit and substantial tannins. If you try it in the cellar, see if you can taste an older vintage to get an idea of what this wine does with age.
Their everyday (and more affordable) red is Brancaia Tre (red wine, Sangiovese + Merlot + Cabernet Sauvignon, 300K bottles, €14), a decent wine that gives you the essence of Brancaia Blu but without the sticker shock. Tre makes for a good house wine from an excellent producer, and you should be able to find it in US wine shops pretty easily.
A little less common but nonetheless tasty is the Brancaia Il Bianco (white wine, Sauvignon Blanc + Semillon + Gewurztraminer, 25K bottles, €12), a minerally and refreshing white. Not much of this vino makes it to the States, and this part of Tuscany isn’t really known for it’s white wines, so give it a taste while you’re visiting them. Like most Italian white wines, Il Bianco is meant to be drunk young, within 12 months of release.
Since this is the Chianti Classico region, Brancaia produces a single DOCG wine with their Chianti Classico Riserva (red wine, Sangiovese + Merlot, 50K bottles, €19) – but has done so only recently (2009 is the first year of release). Their Riserva shows off the characteristic intense style that Brancaia is known for, with good fruit and structural complexity. For a taste of what the Maremma can offer, try their red Supertuscan L’Ilatraia (red wine, Petit Verdot + Merlot + Sangiovese + Cabernet Sauvignon + Cabernet Franc, 40K bottles, €35). This is pretty, complex red blend – I find it curious (but good) and of a more International style than Tuscan.
Casa Brancaia will warmly accept your tasting visit to their cantina in Poppi. As always, it’s best to make a reservation – just e-mail or call them.