Take another sip of Chianti

September 25, 2013 

When someone starts talking about Chianti wine in a group, often people will bring up that wine that they used to see in straw baskets in Italian restaurants many, many years ago -- and actually, in one way, they are correct. Chianti has a long history, but that is the only thing correct about those old memories. The wines from Chianti encompass a large part of the Tuscany region of Italy and are said to date back to the 13th century.

Although there are a number of grape varietals grown in Tuscany, it is really known for the production of two grapes, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Prior to 1967, Chianti was the geographical name of both a red and white wine from Tuscany. Since then they have solely been red wines that are Sangiovese based. Chianti is categorized in four levels based upon different production standards. These levels are DOCG, Superiore, Classico and Riserva in order from lowest to highest quality. In general terms of typical taste, DOCG is soft and easy to drink, Superiore is medium-bodied with soft tannins, Classico is full-bodied and Riserva is complex with elegant tannins.

Ruffino was founded in 1877 and is one of the top producers of Chianti. Ruffino first brought Chianti to the United States before the start of World War I and its wines are easy to locate today since they became part of the Constellation Wines U.S. Family in 2011.

Ruffino is known for its Riserva Ducale and the Riserva Ducale Oro. Riserva Ducale is the "Duke's Reserve" and was first produced in 1927 to pay tribute to having been named as

the official wine supplier to the Duke of Aosta in 1877. For those unfamiliar, the Duke of Aosta is to Italy what the Duke of York is to the United Kingdom.

The 2007 Ruffino Riserva Ducale has cherry and other red fruit flavors, with a hint of white pepper and a smooth finish.

Ruffino only produces a Riserva Ducale Oro in exceptional years and their 2007 is the 60th anniversary wine of this designation. This wine contains the characteristic aromas of Sangiovese such as wild berry, light spice and hints of dried tobacco, followed by full fruit flavors and velvety tannins.

The high acidity of the Sangiovese grape makes Chianti's an almost perfect complement for rich tomato sauce in lasagna and at the same time packs enough flavor that it is not overpowered by the sausage that makes for really tasty lasagna. These wines also pair well with just about any grilled meat.

If you are looking for a pleasurable wine to drink, try a Chianti.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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