Monday, February 9, 2015

Old-School Italian Minus The Straw Basket

We finally got around to a little something left under the Christmas tree by an old and dear friend during the holidays.  He's a guy I used to work with side by side - er, voice by voice - back in the day when he and I did traffic on the ones - or twos, or threes - who can remember?  Thanks to the sort of fate-twisting in which the radio business seems to specialize, he now works voice-by-voice with my wife, doing traffic on the fives - I think it’s the fives, anyway

If Chianti still makes you think of a lackluster table wine more valuable for the straw-cased bottle that contains it, you should sample some wines from that Italian region.  There’s not a straw basket to be found.  No wax drippings down the side of the bottle, either.  I still think of our friend in that straw-bottle-Chianti kind of way - he is old-school.

Ruffino, though, has been around for years.  Here’s the way they tell their story: "In 1877 when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino embraced their passion for winemaking by establishing a small winery in the town of Pontassieve, near Florence, the region already had a centuries-old tradition of growing exceptional wine grapes.  Even so, the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area’s greatness had yet to be revealed.  Tuscany had been heaped with good fortune: mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea, the dry summers that wine grapes favor.  And all those luscious, sun-drenched hills.  Ruffino was one of the “first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy’s three most renowned wine-producing regions – Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Their Riserva Ducale was first released in 1927.  The Chianti Classico wine is named to honor the Duke of Aosta, who traversed the Alps to try the Ruffino wines.  He liked them so much he named Ruffino as the official wine of the Italian royal family.  The wine contains 80% Sangiovese grapes, with the remainder being a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  All the grapes come from the Tuscan Chianti Classico region, from Ruffino’s Santedame, Gretole and Montemasso estates  It is aged for two years in oak, then another three months in the bottle before release.

Riserva Ducale is a medium-dark red, with cherries on the nose that are joined by oak spice and lavender.  The acidity plays a huge role in the mouthfeel of this wine, with red fruit and spice flavors.  A bit of red licorice shows on the finish.

The tannins are fairly healthy, too, and that acidity makes me want a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. If I were to burn the roof of my mouth, however, that same acidity could cause problems.  Careful with that hot meatball.

The wine was darker and smoky tasting on the second night the bottle was open.  More savory notes crept in, but not to the detriment of the fruit or the acidity.  It's no showstopper, but it is sturdy and reliable - old-school, you might say.  Like an old friend, there is an easy familiarity here.  Also like an old friend, you can count on it in a pinch.