- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ruffino, Chianti Classico “Riserva Ducale,” 2005, $24

One of the top names in Tuscan wine, Ruffino specializes in Chianti Classico, a red wine made primarily with sangiovese grapes grown in the heart of the region. The tan label “Riserva Ducale” almost always is worth trying, being marked by full fruit flavor and genuine Tuscan subtlety. The recently released 2005, while young, tastes deliciously nuanced. It will benefit from cellaring but also can be enjoyed right now.

Although clearly a world-class grape variety, sangiovese has enjoyed only spotty success when planted outside central Italy. Something about the Tuscan terroir seems specially, perhaps uniquely, suited to it.

When cultivated in Tuscany, sangiovese yields wines that taste not just of sweet fruit, but also of earth, leather, tobacco and more. Those secondary aromas and flavors make the wines very compelling, particularly when paired with food.

Sangiovese’s naturally high acidity enables it to pair well with many foods that might clash with softer red wines, particularly dishes that include tomatoes or tomato-based sauces. That’s why this wine will complement not only traditional Italian pastas and pizzas, but also barbecued chicken or pork as well as many popular Tex-Mex dishes.

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