“Chianti improves with age.  The older I get the better I like it.”  …… unknown/probably an adaptation.

Old friends are the best.  So when “sweetie” warned me that she was arriving with a serving of lasagna, leftover from a restaurant dinner out with her friends the night before, it gave me a chance to enjoy my own leftovers and take a vacation from cooking (I don’t eat flour noodles).  The “old friend” was a 2013 Nipozzano Reserva Chianti Rufina from Frescobaldi Vini that I knew she would like.  It’s a staple here at “Mizer Manor” as it should be.  Rufina is a DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita - Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) one of 7 denominated sub-zones in Tuscany, near Florence, producing Chianti not labeled as Classico (its own DOCG). 

The Classico region is the original, and many people assume it must then be the best, though I find the definition of “best” changes from palate to palate and can be influenced also and necessarily by price.  With an average retail price (U.S.) of $20. Frescobaldi Reserva Chianti blends value with quality.  As a Reserva, it meets the required two year in wood and three months in bottle ageing requirement (the term, in Italy, Spain and elsewhere – unlike the U.S. – is legally defined).  But given that any Chianti labeled a Reserva need meet those requirements, what makes a Rufina Chianti a good option? And, more specifically, why Frescobaldi?

For one thing, Rufina is amongst the smallest of the seven Chianti sub-zones and blessed with limestone-based soils.  It’s the furthest from the coast and at the highest altitude (even higher than Classico) and with an almost continental climate being on the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Diurnal temperature differences are extreme.  The decrease in nighttime temperature generally contributes to a wine that is more subtle, with lower alcohol, crisp acidity, a lighter body, and typically bright fruit flavors, i.e. a wine that is perfect for “sweetie”.

Soft and supple with very tame tannins, Nipozzano Reserva Chianti offers just the right amount of acidity that makes it also so food friendly.  Aromas of cherry, raspberry and red plum carry onto the palate joined with dried strawberry and delicious spice notes: a hint of white pepper and cinnamon.  It’s a consistent performer from a producer with history in wine making going back to 1308, enough time, I think, to grant they have some experience. 

By law (70%), it is mostly Sangiovese – accounting for that cherry, red currant and some roasted tomato taste.  Inclusion of Malvasia nera (cherry, plum, chocolate) adds texture along with Colorino (color & tannin). Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon add balanced softness opposed by structure: an appreciable tenseness despite the wine being bright and juicy – easy drinking and eminently enjoyable every day.  Balance by definition.

Everyone that’s anyone recommends pairing this wine with barbequed meats, beef stew and aged cheeses (Pecorino Toscano, Grana Padano Stravecchio and Asiago). Consider roast lamb with rosemary and garlic or Tuscan-style sausages and beans but also crostini.  Me? I’m old fashioned and recommend lasagna or any red sauced pasta (some are commercially available, gluten free and paleo friendly), pizza and salad.  I love it with bruschetta made on garlic toast topped with fire-roasted tomatoes heated in balsamic, capers, onion and finished with fresh chiffonade basil


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Maceration:                            25 Days on the Skins
Malolactic:                              Immediately After Fermentation
Ageing:                                    24 Months Barriques Plus 3 Months Bottle
Wood Used:                            Second & Third Year
ALC:                                         13%
James Suckling                        91 Points (2016)
The Wine Advocate                 91 Points (2016)
Wine Enthusiast                      89 Points
Drinkable Through                  2019

The seven sub-zones of Chianti are: Colli (meaning “hill”) Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colline (meaning “hills”) Pisane, Montalbano, Montespertoli and Rufina.  Classico is its own DOCG.  


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