Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011

Rich garnet red with translucence; cherry, tobacco, tar, forest floor on the nose; black cherry, plum, coffee, spice, vanilla and toasty oak on the palate.

Dry, complex, good structure with fine, generous tannins, balancing acidity, black currant tang on rich finish, plenty of fruit—as you expect from a Chianti. Blend of 80% sangiovese and 20% cabernet sauvignon and merlot. As a “Gran Selezione” this is apex of Chianti Classico quality pyramid. It is a notch above Riserva, which must be aged a minimum of 24 months before release. Gran Selezione must be aged a minimum of 30 months, with at least three of those in the bottle. In addition, the grapes must come from the winery’s top vineyards, they cannot be purchased from other growers. Gran Selezione wine also must pass inspection by an accredited tasting panel and chemical and physical analyses by an authorized lab. The category became official in 2014, which means this 2011 vintage is among the first to earn the classification. In brief—this is Chianti Classico stepped up another level.

The Ruffino story begins in the Tuscan town of Pontassieve, near Florence, and a small winery established by cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino in 1877; by the 1880s, they were winning awards; by the 1960s Ruffino sold wines in more than 100 countries. Ruffino is a benchmark maker, dependably committed to quality, a reason Italian wines are respected around the world.

“Ducale” comes from the Duke of Aosta, who fell in love with the wine in the late 1800s; the wine thus became “the duke’s reserve.” Aosta is a small, bilingual region in the Italian Alps, in the extreme northwest of Italy. The duke is the person depicted on the iconic label.

Ruffino began producing its “Riserva Ducale Oro” in 1947 to celebrate an outstanding vintage. They have produced the Oro since only when they enjoy an exceptional vintage. The Gran Selezione wine is aged in oak, stainless steel, and concrete vats for three years—six months longer than the minimum requirement—then spends six months in bottle—twice as long as required. The bottom line—an outstanding value-for-price effort in a superior quality wine. Sensational with red meats and Italian food with tomato bases. A wine you should try. It is distributed by Constellation Brands (they acquired Ruffino in 2011), so—happily—this should be widely available. $36-42

Ruffino website

Other photos: Ruffino winery, Ruffino vineyard