Steadily climbed the ladder to become one of its region's top quality producers
Agricole Rizzello came into existence in the early 1970s when founder Marco Rizzello joined a growing number of Italian wine growers who saw the long term advantages of producing wine for his family. Having grown up working in the fields around the town of Cellino San Marco, Italy, he began acquiring land that today totals around 445 acres of prime Pugliese vineyards. He invested in modern equipment and made Agricole Rizzello one of the show places of the Salient Peninsula.
Rizzello also began tutoring his grandson Franco, now 48, in the finer points of growing and winemaking. At age 19, Franco was slated to become a lawyer, but his love for the vineyards and a common dream of one day having a world- class winery with his grandfather proved hard to resist. He chose instead to follow his grandfather into the wine business and today Franco Rizzello runs Agricole Rizzello with a capable hand. He has also served a mayor of Cellino San Marco until his duties at the winery forced him to resign his elected position.
Utilizing a climate very similar to California’s Napa Valley (wet in winter and extremely dry in summer), Agricole Rizzello has steadily climbed the ladder to become one of its region’s top quality producers. The wonderful wines of Agricole Rizzello have won numerous European awards and are held in extremely high regard by the European wine press.
Wines have been produced in Tuscany for more than 3000 years, first by the Etruscans, followed by the Greeks, and later by the Romans, and have always been considered among Italy’s best. The wines have ranged from red to white and then back to mostly red, due to the fact that the principle Tuscan grape is the fabled red Sangiovese, the backbone of Tuscan wine production.
As few as five decades ago, numerous consumers identified Tuscany’s wines by the colorful fiascos (wicker flasks) that identified many Chianti bottles, most of which were very basic red wines. A lot of the wines were produced by large wine cooperatives, who utilized the grapes from many small growers in their area. Then, the main emphasis was on volume and not necessarily quality. But, in terms of wine years, that time was long ago and today’s Tuscan wines are on par with many of the finer wines from even the most exalted wine producing countries.
Chianti continues to be Tuscany’s premier wine but it is a far cry from its older version. Tight new laws of appellation (DOC in 1963, DOCG in 1984) have made the region among the most controlled in the country and have given rise to a new wave of high quality wines that grace stores and fashionable restaurants.
Incredibly similar to its California look alike Napa Valley, Tuscany is quite hilly and built around the ancient Florence to Siena highway. Many wine estates abound, complete with rustic red clay topped buildings of historical distinction and easily among the most identifiable in the world. Like Napa Valley, these wine properties produce their own estate-bottled wines that are much sought after.
Many wine experts consider Tuscany the near-perfect growing area for grapes, due mostly to its location and excellent combination of climate and water. Giacomo Tachis, the greatest Italian wine expert (inventor of the perfect wine Sassicaia) put it thusly: "Here there is light, the sun. Radiant sunlight and the right soil are the soul of wine. But the tradition of the countryside and the memory of men are the solid bases of the extraordinary Tuscan wine culture."
If all of the above factors are put together, it is easy to see why Tuscany’s wines carry such elevated credentials. International competitions have further enhanced many Tuscan wines’ reputations and even the super-selective British wine press has often praised the nobleness of many of Tuscany’s prized selections.
Tuscany is also among the most visitable places in the wine world. A short drive South from Florence and the majesty of the Tuscan countryside spreads out before you like a cover from a travel magazine. There are so many small, ambient places to stay that it is unnecessary to count. A savory local cuisine that is designed to accompany Tuscany’s range of great wines makes the trip even more unbelievable. The settings are incomparable, the foods rich and delicious and the wines simply complete some of the great gastronomic experiences in life.
Tuscany’s varied wine selections comes in both reds and white, but the reds are the true masterpieces of the region. Where the soils vary slightly, so do the resulting wines and the inevitable comparisons are made from neighbor to neighbor. Two DOCG Chianti Classicos, made just miles apart, can have totally different characteristics, a fact that adds to the area’s allure.