Chianti Rufina: A Jewel of Italy’s Best Known Wine Region

published Sep 8, 2011
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Before you read Mary’s post below, we wanted to let you know that Mary, our dear wine writer, is to be hugely congratulated today. This week she received the good news that she has passed the final hurdle to receive her Master of Wine degree. This is a huge achievement, one possessed by only about 300 people worldwide. You can see her Masters of Wine profile here. Congratulations Mary!

I am sure most of our readers are familiar with the wines of Chianti in Tuscany. Perhaps fewer are as familiar with its six sub-zones, of which Chianti Rufina is probably the most well known (and considered by many the best).

While the best known of the sub-regions, Chianti Rufina is unfortunately often confused with the well-known Chianti wine producer Ruffino (remember the different spelling!). It is a small, quite mountainous region in the northeast of Chianti. It has a slightly warmer micro-climate than the other sub-zones, enabling it to produce more full-bodied wines, yet it also enjoys cool nights, which are important in developing flavor in the grapes and retaining acidity. Soils are a mix of clay and limestone, resembling Chianti Classico in many ways more than the other sub-zones. This combination of micro-climate, altitude and soil makes for wines with great acidity that age reasonably well

While some Chianti Rufina wines can be quite light-bodied, I typically find them weightier and more full-bodied than most regular Chianti, with more tannic grip and a greater depth of flavor, showing a well-defined earthiness and sense of place.

The sub-region was officially classified in 1932. As we are in Chianti, the Sangiovese grape reigns supreme. Wines must be at least 75% Sangiovese (but can be 100%). The remaining 25% can be a combination of local grapes and international grapes. The wines cannot be released before June 1, following the harvest and if of Riserva quality, the wines must be aged for at least two years before release.

Frescobaldi’s Nipozzano Chianti Rufina is probably one of the best-known and most available Chianti Rufina wines on the US market. I recently tasted the 2007 Riserva. It was really quite delicious. The blend is 90% Sangiovese and 10% a combination of Malvasia Nero, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. My tasting note for the wine follows.

Intense and layered nose of wild dark berries with notes of dried herbs, underbrush, vanilla and spice. The layering of flavors continued across the palate. Rich, yet reined in by the racy acidity and grippy tannins, ample ripe fruit persisted on the palate – blackberries, blueberries, wild strawberry and cherry, hints of black tea, sage, vanilla and freshly ground pepper. Nice long finish.

Suggested retail price is $22 but I’ve found it is many stores for $18-$20. A delicious, not overly expensive wine to enjoy yourself or to gift.

Other good Chianti Rufina producers to seek out include Basciano and Selvapiana.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. 

Related: Exciting Times for Chianti Wines: Evolved But Still the Heart of Tuscan Wine

(Image: Mary Gorman)