Since a visit to Chianti Rufina last summer, I miss no chance to taste or talk about these wines. I was therefore delighted that the Wine Society offered a mixed tasting case which was the perfect starting point for a Fine Wine supper. The wines were from two socially contrasting estates, the workmanlike Grati (also known as Galiga e Vetrice) which Janet and I visited last summer and the more aristocratic Colognole whose charming representative we had met at Vinitaly, the Italian wine fair, in 2009. So I knew the wines were going to be good.
Both estates are in one sense traditionalist in that they complement the predominant Sangiovese grape variety with the local Cannaiolo and Colorino, not with the mildly fashionable Merlot. The result is that the wines are classic Rufina: pale ruby in colour, sour cherry, tea leaves, smoke and leather on the nose, medium weight in the mouth with a taut, fine boned structure due to the lively acidity and racy tannins. They also share an amazing value/price ratio. The 2007 Riserva from Grati at £8.25 has got to be among the most complex wines on the market at this price; basic Colognole at £12 is still a great bargain. As the wines were so similar in style, they made for an excellent set of comparisons.
So what did the wines show?
- well made simple Chianti Rufina, for example the Wine Society’s own brand made by Grati, is perfect everyday drinking at under £7. Fresh sour cherries, a subtle fruit palate, plenty of structure to stand up to food, great refreshment and balance.
- There is marked vintage variation and perhaps wine making variation in the Grati wines – everyone preferred the 2007 Riserva to the 2006. Not only was it a near perfect vintage weather wise, but the wine making tasted cleaner too.
- Colognole achieve a purer, more fruit driven style, especially in the very young 2009
- the two 2004 Colognole bottles we tasted were quite superb: from the other top year of the decade, the ‘basic’ wine was beautifully judged, complex, subtle, light and drinkable, the ‘Collezione’ bottling added a richer fruit note to that. Unfortunately when ordering these wines I missed the chance to compare the Riserva which is also on offer.
- Rufina ages incredibly well: the Grato Grati, Vecchia Annata, 1991 tasted like a good 10 year old wine, not a 20 year old.
To finish off the evening, we had three wines all of which had something special – or at least unusual – about them. Sangiovese is known as a bit of home lover, it does not in general do well outside of central Italy. But an Argentinian bottle showed pretty well – much weightier fruit but a decent everyday glass of wine. Second, Ben of Caviste’s mystery wine, tasted blind, was just that. Quite deep ruby in colour and with restrained ripe blackberry fruit on the nose, its best feature was the full-on black fruit on the palate, with quite sharp acidity, medium plus length and … um, I had no idea as to its identity. Some went for a Sangiovese component for the acidity – correctly. My best guess was Montepulciano d’Abruzzo fruit and Sangiovese from, say, Northern Puglia or the Marche. Needless to say it was a compete joker: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Sangiovese from Tuscany, made by Pietro Beconcini. This is claimed to be the only Tempranillo in Italy … and given the peninsula’s wealth of local grape varieties, it is probably not going to catch on!
And finally, one of Tuscany’s great glories, a really good glass of Vin Santo. There are thousands of really poor examples of this classic wine sold to unknowing tourists as a dessert. But when made by semi-drying perfect ripe grapes for three months before a long, slow fermentation and maturation in sealed small wood barrel (for 5-8 years) it can produces a great wine. This is Grati’s ‘current’ vintage, the 1995, and is distinguished by its relative dryness and superb walnut, dried fig and caramel notes with a rich, fruity acidic finish. Most Vin Santo is made from white grapes (the dull Trebbiano and the aromatic Malvasia), but this example also has one third Sangiovese which contributes some red fruit and acidity to the mix. A suitable climax to an excellent evening with these two Rufina properties.