Too much can be said about Chianti, and unfortunately too much of it is less than good. Its borders, names, grapes, etc. seems to grow and morph and become supplanted almost incessantly, which has mostly muddled and obscured the identity and value of the real stuff. This is not to say that some areas less traditionally associated with the name and the tradition of “Chianti” (the precise identity of which is admittedly not “settled law”) can not and do not make very good and true wine, but this sort of politically and economically driven “creep” inevitably leads to dilution, and possibly worse…
But enough about what’s wrong with Chianti. Despite its small size and the relative obscurity of the name, the diminutive Chianti Rufina (pronounced ROO-fee-nah, by the way) appellation is second perhaps only to the handful of towns in the center of the Classico zone with regard to history, identity, and quality (the first designated growing region was declared in this area as early as 1716). Rufina is geographically at the northeastern-most edge of the constellation of Chianti sub-zones, but at lower elevations than Classico, making it overall a drier zone, but because of a quirk in the Apennine curtain, the zone experiences alternating cool winds from the sea, and equally cool winds that drain down from the high mountain valleys. These climatic factors in conjunction with the clay and limestone soils make for wines of real structure and longevity with notably intense aroma profiles as well.
To allow the wine to “speak” freely, I assembled a simple but elegant dinner of cheese ravioli with a smooth tomato/fennel/bay sauce, and breaded (with parsley and thyme ) chicken breasts with butter-braised carrots, with lemon to squirt over everything.
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2008
Just barely transparent purplish garnet color. Notably elegant and complex nose of wood smoke, cherry, plum butter, minerals, and toffee. The medium-weight body is all muscle and sinew with smooth but formidable tannins and flavors of mixed spices, wild strawberry, roasted chestnut, myrtle berry, and touch light soy sauce. The swallow brings a wonderfully tart and savory acidity leading into a broad and warm finish. A basically very traditional wine with just a quick but charming wink at a more contemporary style.