Twice prime minister and inventor of modern Chianti wine, Bettino Ricasoli was born on this day – 9th March – in 1809. He was considered one of the driving forces of the Risorgimento.
Born on this day in 1809 in Florence, Bettino Ricasoli was the second person to hold the office of prime minister in the new Kingdom of Italy, succeeding Cavour in 1861.
After withdrawing from politics, he concentrated on the family vineyards around the Castello di Brolio. Set between Siena and Arezzo, they were the seat of the Ricasoli family since the early 12th century.
Creating the modern Chianti
After he was orphaned at 18, Ricasoli enrolled at the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence. There he acquired the agrarian and financial skills he needed to run the business successfully. He saved it from collapse, helped by his marriage to Anna Bonaccorsi, who brought with her a considerable dowry.
In1872, Ricasoli sought to create a wine with universal appeal. He developed the formula for Chianti wine that is still used today: 70% Sangiovese grapes, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca.
Today, Barone Ricasoli is the largest winery in the Chianti Classico area, with 235 hectares of vines and 26 hectares of olive groves. It is the oldest wine producer in Italy and the second oldest in the world.
Politician of the Risorgimento
Ricasoli was a follower of patriotic political philosophers such as Cesare Balbo and Massimo d’Azeglio. In 1846, he became politically active, urging Leopold II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, to make various liberal reforms. The following year, he founded a newspaper, La Patria, with a mission to define “the constitution of Italian nationality”.
Elected gonfalonier (mayor) of Florence in 1848, he encouraged support for Piedmont-Sardinia against Austria in the First Italian War of Independence.
However, the radical democrats Giuseppe Montanelli and Francesco Guerrazzi overthrew Leopold, proclaiming a new republic. He reclaimed power only after turning to the Austrians for help. This so disgusted Ricasoli he abandoned his political career and exiled himself to Switzerland for a time.
He remained out of politics until 1859, after the Second Italian War of Independence achieved its goal. Appointed minister of the interior in Cavour’s government of Tuscany, Ricasoli promoted the union of Tuscany with Piedmont. The union took place in March 1860.
Elected to the Chamber of Deputies of the new Italian government in February 1861, he succeeded Cavour to the premiership in June.
First and second premierships
During his first premiership, Ricasoli admitted the Garibaldian volunteers to the regular army and revoked the 30-year exile of Mazzini for his membership of an illegal political group. He also attempted a reconciliation with the Vatican.
Following his resignation in 1862, Ricasoli returned to power in 1866. During this premiership, he refused Napoleon III’s offer to cede Venetia to Italy on condition that Italy gave up their Prussian alliance. He also reached a compromise with the Vatican only for the Chamber to reject it. This was the final straw and he resigned once again, withdrawing from politics for good.