Brusco dei Barbi

Governo method: How did it get its name?

Fattoria dei Barbi owner and winemaker Stefano Cinelli Colombini often speaks about how his father was among the first to use the so-called governo (or governo all’uso toscano) method outside of Chianti. Historically, the winery’s Brusco dei Barbi was made using this technique.

It’s easy to find information, even in English, on the governo method (see this Wikipedia entry, for example, or look it up in nearly any dignified wine encyclopedia).

The governo method was developed in Chianti in the 19th century and was probably perfected and popularized by Barone Bettino Ricasoli, the appellation’s modern-era founding father.

Top grapes are picked before they are totally ripe and are then reserved to dry on the classic drying mats used for Vin Santo and other passito wines. After the rest of the harvest has been fermented, these grapes are pressed and their must — high in sugar — is added to the wine. As a result, a second fermentation occurs, thus giving the wine a higher alcohol content. It can also be used to help a stuck fermentation.

The technique was popular before the advent of temperature control. And it was even used in some regions to make slightly sparking (frizzante) red wines. It’s still allowed in Chianti Classico.

But where did it get its name?

The Italian governo can be translated as government in English.

But in Tuscan dialect, the term has a particular and distinct meaning.

In contemporary Tuscan, governare means to take care of [someone[, as in take care of children (the common usage today).

But Tuscan dialectal dictionaries indicate that it was once commonly used in reference to feeding barnyard animals.

According to one dictionary I consulted, vo a governa’ i polli can be translated into Italian as Vado a dare da mangiare ai polli or I’m going to feed the chickens.

So it’s possible that the name was inspired by “feeding” the fermented wine more sugar (to provoke a second fermentation).

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