Sangiovese Grape Dominates Tuscan Reds
With reasonable alcohol and light structure, Tuscan reds pair more easily with food and don’t overwhelm like many New World reds.
The reds of Tuscany are dominated by the red grape sangiovese and tend to be food-friendly and acidic, better with light-on-meat meals (like pasta and meat sauce or pizza) and good with so much more.
I always get a woodsy, cherry character (almost like cherry pits) from sangiovese, which shows a light body and flavor that ranges from barely-there to gigantic.
You probably aren’t going to see sangiovese on the label since most of the wines tout their geographical origin — Toscano, Chianti or many others.
Wine from Chianti Classico is made from grapes harvested in the historic Chianti zone. Wines labeled as just “Chianti” come from a broader area.
By smelling Castelli del Grevepese “Clemente VII” 2015 Chianti Classico, you may think it a bit shy. But it delivers the flavor and character of a big wine, even on a medium structure with berry and plum notes then clove and tobacco closing in on the finish. The wine comes from one of the better cooperatives in Tuscany, one known for making above-average, inexpensive wines. This wine was aged in Slavonian and French oak, for example. While most Chianti include small amounts of other grapes, this one is all sangiovese. $13.
For at least the last generation or two, a group of vintners have departed from production rules and used non-Italian grapes in their blends, aiming for a bit of New World style. While these wines may bear a less-prestigious designation, they can be very good and sought-after. The term “Super Tuscan” often is applied to the most expensive of these.
Ruffino 2015 Modus Toscano unites sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and merlot for a broad range of flavors. The wine smells of licorice, toast and blackberry and shows a richer texture than a Chianti with lush berry and cherry flavors; a touch of vanilla; and light, gentle tannins. $22. 1/2
To make things more complicated, Chianti Classico created a new designation, Gran Selezione, to designate outstanding years. While the term “reserve” is meaningless in United States-produced wines, in Italy it is a legal term, with “riserva” designating at least 27 months of aging before release.
Ruffino “Ducale Oro” 2014 Chianti Classico Reserve Gran Selezione shows floral and anise smells with deep flavors of black cherry, roses and earth. $40. 1/2
A storied brand, Ruffino is now part of a global beverage conglomerate. The entry-level wines have slipped a bit, but the higher-end wines, such as Modus and Ducale, have kept pace, producing quality wines good in the short term and better with aging.
GRADE: Exceptional , Above average , Good, Below average , Poor . DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week.