Recently Que Syrah Sue and I participated in a Ruffino Chianti tasting of four wines hosted by Snooth and with a video chat. The occasion for the tasting was their release of their new top of the line “Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.”
There were four wines in the line-up, and we tasted them in this order. Reviews of each follow.
Chianti’s essential ingredient is Sangiovese which thrives in the limestone laden Galestro soils of Tuscany. Limestone is full of marine fossils, and it is these ancient sea creatures that contribute to the complexity of Chianti wines–notes including violet, spice, plum, and cherry. Key dates for Ruffino Chianti include:
- The earliest documents linking wine making and Chianti in the area date to 1398.
- In 1877, two Ruffino cousins founded their winery in the heart of Tuscany to make high quality Sangiovese based wines with aging potential.
- Since 1877, Ruffino has had only four wine makers. Gabriele Tacconi is the current Ruffino Chief Winemaker.
- By 1890, the Duke of Aosta asked Ruffino for wine to serve the King of Savoy.
- In 1927, Ruffino produced one of the world’s first reserve vintages, called Riserva Ducale, or Duke’s Reserve.
- In 1947, Ruffino introduced Riserva Ducale Oro, making it the “Gold” standard of Chianti.
- In 2014, the Consorzio Vino Chiant Classico decided to create a new designation, “Gran Selezione” for the top 10% of Chianti Classico. Wines must be 100% winery owned, aged a minimum of 30 months in oak and three months in the bottle, certified by experts, and more.
Ruffino – Chianti DOCG– 2013 – 12.5% $10+
Give this Chianti a chance– it opens up! At first we were thrown off, but then we discovered an unpretentious wine that would go well with pizza or spaghetti with the family. This nice inexpensive Chianti has a perfume of violet, roses, it offers good acidity, good follow through, and well-balanced fruit, particularly tart cranberry, cherry, and plum flavors. It comes in a Florentine shaped traditional bottle, very elegant. A blend of 70% Sangiovese plus other wines like merlot and cabernet sauvignon, this wine was aged in 3-4000 gallon oak casks. We’d be pleased with this wine at a $10 price point; we found it online from under $10 to up to $15. You always want to cook with a wine you’ll enjoy drinking, and this is a great red wine for cooking with. After the tasting, we used the rest of the bottle to cook braised lamb shanks (see below!)
Ruffino – Aziano – Chianti Classico – 2012 -$15+
An everyday budget wine that can go well with a bit more sophisticated fare; I would definitely buy this if I saw it on sale. This wine has more flair and pizzaz than the 2013 Chianti. Another nicely balanced wine: not too fruity, not flabby. Most Americans will enjoy these versatile wines better with food. As it opened up that evening and over the next few days, I loved the cinnamon, cloves, and earth that rose about the cherry and plum fruit that was most apparent when we first opened it. This would be a great restaurant wine.
Ruffino Riserva Ducale -2011 – $20+
1927 was the first vintage of the Riserva Ducale. Made from 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is an elegant and inviting wine from start to finish. The blend spent one year in oak cask and one year in concrete bath then aged four to six months in a bottle. In the video, they pointed out that this wine has a longer cork for a longer life. While you could cellar it, it is very easy to drink now. The aroma drew us in and we just wanted relax and enjoy it. The texture is smooth with red stone fruits like cherries and plum, plus plenty of spice. We would love to pair this wine with rabbit, lamb, or eggplant parmesan. This wine was easily our favorite of the night. I have been happy to find this wine on the list of some of my favorite Italian restaurants and I would definitely recommend it by the glass or the bottle.
Ruffino Resirva Ducale Oro – 2010 $28+
This big bold wine is composed of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cab Sauvignon, Merlot and Colorino. Not as fruit forward as the other Chiantis previously tasted, the Oro can stand up to a big hearty, fatty rich meal like a grilled rib eye and roasted vegetables, wild boar shanks, or lamb shanks. Dry, lean, dark cherry, rustic, at first it was a bit intense but then we all settled in and enjoyed the ride.
When I saw lamb shanks on sale after we tasted these wines, I knew we needed to pair them with these Ruffino wines. We used most of the rest of the Ruffino Chianti DOCG 2013 for cooking the lamb shanks–more than two hours simmering in the red wine along with lots of rosemary, garlic, and carrots. Then we set the shanks on mounded polenta and ladled the rich winey sauce. Wow! So rich and delicious. The Oro is such a powerful wine that it had no trouble at all standing up to such an intense meal.