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A vertical tasting – Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro

Event:  Wine Maker dinner with Ruffino “50 Years of Chianti Classico Riserva”

Location:  Potetkjelleren, Bergen Norway

Date:  Tuesday April 21, 2009  19:30

Lighting: Very, very dim candle-light, therefore, it was rather difficult assessing the color concentration on the wines

Hosted by Christian Bottegal & Gabrielle Tacchoni

Vintages tasted:  2005, 1999, 1990, 1985, 1977, 1955

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I felt fortunate to be invited to this tasting because I have never had the opportunity to taste a vertical of Chianti’s like this going back 50 years! I have to admit that I can remember often drinking the Ruffno Riserva Ducale Oro in the early to mid-90’s, but haven’t tasted the wine since, so I thought that this was an incredible opportunity to see what I have been missing and to see how their wines age.  I also have to admit that I didn’t expect much from a 50 year-old+ Chianti.  I was expecting a very light-colored, way past it’s prime Chianti. Read on to find how the Chianti’s were holding up and what they were paired with!

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First, a bit of history (from the brochure given to us in the beginning of the event): Back in 1890, Italy’s Duke of Aosta, who regularly passed through Tuscany on his travels to Rome, was so impressed with Ruffino wines that he issued a “Ducal certificate” naming the winery as the preferred supplier to his court.  Ruffino crafted well-structured red wines specifically for the Duke’s demanding palate (the “Duke’s Reserve”), which became the inspiration for the wine’s orginal name when released in 1927:  Riserva Ducale Chianti Stravecchio.

Riserva Ducale is the only Italian wine that is allowed to include the word “Riserva” in its name, because the name existed long before the production rules of Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva.  Meticulous selection of the finest Sangiovese grapes, and ever more stringent quality controls led naturally to the creation of Riserva Ducale Oro. The wine was first produced in 1947.  Made only in outstanding vintages, Riserva Ducale Oro is a true expression of the heart of Tuscan wine.

Our historical vintage tour of Ruffino’s Riserva Ducale Oro took us through 3 courses plus a starter and a dessert. The starter was paired with a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay (both un-oaked) from other Ruffino Estates. Here’s the first course:

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Anise seed and coffee-smoked tuna carpaccio, pan-fried Kamchatka crab with nut filo chips, lemon compote and salad

And now for the wines:

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 2005:

80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in thermo-controlled stainless-steel vats at an average temperature of 28° Celsius for 10 days, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged first in vats for about 3 months, then in 35/75 hl. oak casks for about 24 months and, lastly, for a minimum of 3 months in the bottle.

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.65%
  • Total acidity:  5.00
  • PH at 20°C:  3.56
  • Residual Sugar:  2.30

Official vintage rating: ****

Appearance: Dark and young as far as I could tell

Nose: The first thing I noticed was the Caberent Sauvignon influence – bell peppers and blackberries. Well-integrated, but heavy use of oak. Big and modern in style. Some dark cherries

Palate: The Cabernet Sauvignon was also in the mouth – blackberries and peppers with gripping tannins from both the fruit and the oak. A modern Chianti with great structure, medium plus acidity and lot’s of oak. Needs some time for the oak to integrate. Extremely well-made.

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1999:

85% Sangiovese, 15% Colorino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in thermo-controlled stainless-steel vats at an average temperature of 28° Celsius for 10 days, and was followed by a post-fermentative maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Ageing: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was first aged for 5 months in barriques of second passage, then for an additonal 28 months in 35/75 hl. oak casks. After bottling the wine has been further refined in bottle for 4 months minimum

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.00%
  • Total acidity:  4.60
  • PH at 20°C:  3.51
  • Residual Sugar:  2.60

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and young as far as I could tell, very little age showing

Nose: Mature cherries, cigar box, oak still dominant on the nose.

Palate: Cherries, great acidity. Firm, medium tannins. Oak still dominant on the palate with cigar box notes. A well structured modern Chianti which still needs time:

2005 & 1999 Food Pairing

Pan-fried Turbot with pancetta and lentil ragout, beurre rouge and pickled vegetables

Pan-fried Turbot with pancetta and lentil ragout, beurre rouge and pickled vegetables

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1990:

90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo, 3% Malvasia

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 30° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 6 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 24 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and further in stainless steel tank

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.24%
  • Total acidity:  5.80
  • PH at 20°C:  3.35
  • Residual Sugar:  1.60

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and still young looking as far as I could tell. Slightly brownish rim.

Nose: Very similar to the other Chianti’s, but no evident oak aromas. Plenty of farmyard aromas right off the bat with  a bouquet of red and morell cherries.

Palate: Firm tannins and well-structured. This is a more classical style of Chianti with no barrique use and it’s evident on the palate. Clean fruit, mostly cherries with hints of farmyard aromas. Great acidity. Great concentration.  Still young with more room to stretch it’s legs down in the cellar. In my opinion, this has 5-10 more years to reach it’s peak

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Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1985:

90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo, 3% Malvasia

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 8 days.

Ageing: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 24 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and further in stainless steel tank

2009-04-21_420091463Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.53%
  • Total acidity:  5.45
  • PH at 20°C:  3.40
  • Residual Sugar:  1.83

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Dark and still young looking as far as I could tell. Slightly brownish rim. But, still surprisingly darkish.

Nose: Farmyard, plums, cherries and some prunes suggesting that perhaps this Chianti was slightly past it’s prime.

Palate: Plums, prune juice. Still had great tannins and acidity. The Prunes I found on both the nose and palate really hinted at this wines +20 years and suggested perhaps a wine that was slipping, but the structure, acidity and tannins really surprised me. Drink now

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1990 & 1985 Food Pairing

Rack of lamb, creamed potatoes with herbs, glazed chestnuts, house-made pimento and spring onion lamb sausage

Rack of lamb, creamed potatoes with herbs, glazed chestnuts, house-made pimento and spring onion lamb sausage

Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1977:

75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia, 5% Colorino

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 15 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 12 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and ageing in bottle for minimum 6 months

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13.01%
  • Total acidity:  5.39
  • PH at 20°C:  3.37
  • Residual Sugar:  1.96

Official vintage rating: ****

Appearance: Showing age, especially around the edges with some browning, but still quite a deep and concentrated red color.

Nose: Stewed cherries, slight oxidation, and purple gooseberries

Palate: Quite elegant with soft acidity and tannins. Still had good concentration, but no room for storage. Drink now

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Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro 1955:

75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Malvasia, 5% Colorino

Fermentation: The alcohol fermentation, aided by racking and punching down, took place in glass painted concrete tanks at a controlled temperature of 28-32° Celsius for 2 weeks, and was followed by a post-fermentation maceration on the skins for another 15 days.

Aging: After completing the malo-lactic fermentation, the wine was aged for a minimum of 12 months in 80 hl Slavonian oak casks and aging in bottle for minimum 6 months

Analysis: (at the moment of bottling)

  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Total acidity:  5.70
  • PH at 20°C:  3.38
  • Residual Sugar:  2.05

Official vintage rating: *****

Appearance: Still surprisingly deep and concentrated in color. Even darker than the 1977!  Brownish rim. As I mentioned, the lighting in the restaurant was mostly by candle-light and therefore it was hard to assess the color.

Nose: Madeira notes immediately evident. Stewed and dried fruit. Plums, prunes, caramel and cherries

Palate: Great concentration and acidity. Still had firm tannins.  Still had great structure.  But, this wine had Madeira-like aromas and oxidation.  Overall, it still had great mouth feel, acidity, structure and tannins, but the fruit didn’t match the rest of the components. I have never tasted a Chianti of this age, but I am quite sure that this wine was past it’s prime.  This really reminded me of some of the great old Boal Madeira’s I have tasted, but drier. A very interesting wine. It sparked many discussions around me at the table. We all enjoyed sipping it and many felt that it was perfect. Although I also thought it was a “perfect” bottle of 50 year-old Chianti, I still debated that the fruit was showing too much age and was at it’s peak years ago. Drink now.

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1977 & 1955 Food Pairing (sorry folks, no photo)

Reindeer with morel cream, juniper berries, fried mushrooms, glazed onions & pommes Anna

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the wine-making in the Riserva Ducale Oro and am quite confident that the latest vintage(s) will age well.


Category: 1 WINE, 4 VERTICAL TASTINGS, 7 WINE MAKER DINNERS, 8 FOOD, Events, Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro

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Carrot top pesto

The next time you find yourself at the supermarket and stumble across a beautiful bunch of carrots with the green leafy tops still attached, don’t just walk by, buy them!  Then when you get home, remove the green tops from the carrots and don’t through them away! You can wash them thoroughly and use them.

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Carrot tops are very nutritious! They are an outstanding source of Chlorophyll, the green pigment that studies have shown to combat the growth of tumors. Cholorphyll also contains cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands. They are also rich in protein, minerals and vitamins.

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Carrot greens are antiseptic, so they have been added to mouthwashes and, mixed with honey, to disinfect sores. They are also diuretic (increas urine flow), and can help treat kidney disease and edema. They are also loaded with potassium which can make them bitter (which can be adjusted by the use of acidity – like balsamic vinegar).  Thank you Yahoo! Answers and JenasaurusX for all the great info!

So, once you have removed the tops, place them in a salad spinner and rinse them very well. Then spin dry! Next, place them in a food processor or blender with some garlic (you add as much as you like, I usually add less), extra virgin olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar which provides the acidity to reduce the bitterness. Blend until the desired consistency is achieved:

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Now you can place the finished carrot top pesto in a glass jar and place in the refrigerator. This can be maintained for some time without a problem. You can use this pesto as you normally would: on pasta, on fish, on salads, etc!

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What wine to drink with this? Well, due to the fact that this carrot top pesto is very green, slightly spicy and with a touch of bitterness, I would suggest a Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner.

Enjoy!!

Category: 8 FOOD

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Judging wine on its own, or with food?

Should a wine be tasted and judged on its own or with food?
I was out with a friend last night. A friend who happens to also be a wine importer of mainly US wines into Norway.
He had given me a bottle of wine to taste a few days earlier. A wine which some critics, outside Norway, give high marks to. I tasted it, and didn’t like it.  My feedback to him was that it smelled too much of yeast (as if the wine had too much stirring of the lees) and lacked that freshness I came to expect from the varietal in question.

On the palate, I also found the wine to be too thin and lacking acidity. Overall, a boring wine which I could not force myself to consume the entire bottle of.

His goal was to figure out what it was about the wine that i didn’t like.  He went on to say that I was supposed to enjoy the wine with Scallops. This got me thinking.
I am a firm believer that wine should be enjoyed with food. This being said, is it wrong to judge a wine solely on its own merits?
Personally, I feel that wine is best judged on its own, then paired with the proper food. Any good quality wine will work with food if the right dish is chosen. But a wine which I find to be of inferior quality, or that I just don’t like, that happens to work well with lets say scallops, isn’t a wine for me- even if the critics don’t always agree.

Category: 1 WINE, 8 FOOD, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Judging wine on its own, or with food?

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The Presentation and Service of Wine in Top Restaurants

There are many critics who criticize food and service in restaurants all over the world. There are not enough critics however,  criticizing the presentation and service of wine in restaurants. Well, this is precisely what I am aiming to do with this short story:

I was extremely disappointed with wine service in a couple of  top restaurants on my last trip to Piemonte, Italy. Restaurants that have either earned a star in the Michelin Guide or consider themselves  “wine-oriented”.

Ristorante Piazza Duomo

Ristorante Piazza Duomo - La Piola

My first negative experience was in a 1 Michelin-stared restaurant in Alba, Ristorante Piazza Duomo – La Piola. When we arrived we were greeted promptly with an open door.  As we moved upstairs, there were 2 or 3 people helping us with our jackets and to our table.  Once we were seated, the server showed up with an aperitif menu, not a wine list, which we promptly asked for.  We were a group of 7 people, 6 of us were educated sommelier’s who work in the business.

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amuse-bouche

Among the bottles we selected for our dinner  was a 2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino. The server was quick to confirm we had made a great selection and quickly pointed  to a table of 12 behind us where the wine maker  was actually seated!  We thought this was a great start to a fantastic evening!  We ordered the rest of the wines for the evening and asked that the Monfortino be decanted right away.  The amuse-bouche from the kitchen started to arrive, 6 dfferent ones in all! Everything  seemed to be going well.

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amuse-bouche

The problems started just before our first course arrived, a suckling pig with cauliflower.  The 2006 Heymann-Löwenstein Riesling we ordered (unfortunately, there is an incredible lack of German Rieslings on wine lists in Italy) was opened a few meters away from us on a small work table that was wheeled over. The server never showed us the bottle (label) to confirm our selection before proceeding to open it. After the bottle was opened, the server came over to our host , and poured some in his glass.

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Suckling pig

Our host had to make an effort and tilted his head to read the label to see if the correct wine was being poured. This was our first bad wine service experience of the evening.  Needless to say, the wine was great and paired well with the suckling pig, which was also great.

A full 20 minutes had now passed since we had ordered the wines and still the Monfortino had not been presented nor decanted as we had specifically asked. In fact, about an hour passed before our Monfortino was finally decanted;  once again without presentation to confirm our selection. Once opened, our wine was tasted by the “sommelier”.  After being decanted, the decanter was brought over to a shelf on the other side of the restaurant where other bottles of wine were placed until they were served to the guests.  The empty bottle was placed on our table for show.  The sommelier didn’t give us the opportunity to taste the wine at this point as I felt he should have.

2001 Monfortino

2001 Monfortino

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Cheese-filled Gnocchi with white truffle

We had two bottles of wine with our next course, the cheese-filled gnocchi with the seasonal and at this point of our trip, mandatory white truffles grated on top. The two bottles selected for this course was a 1979 Roagna Barbaresco (we found this bottle standing and covered in dust in the cellar of the restaurant we had dinner at the night before, which we gladly paid €70 for) and a 2006 Giovanni Almondo Roero (100% nebbiolo ) as a backup just in case the Roagna was over the hill and tired.

Here comes the next wine service disaster.  After letting our host sample the first splash of the Roagna, which brought a big smile to his face suggesting that the Roagna was in surprisingly intact condition,  the server then proceeded to pour the wine around the table for the rest of us. When the server got back to our host, she over poured this 30-year old wine into the glass along with the sediment, rendering his glass of wine almost undrinkable!  This is a 1 Michelin-starred restaurant in the center of the most prestigious wine region in Italy, with one of the top Barolo producers sitting just behind us, and a sommelier  who doesn’t know how to serve a 30-year old bottle of locally produced wine!

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Although this was the last chance they had to show us their incompetence, they continued to show their incompetence to the table behind us where Mr. Conterno was seated. As you might have guessed, that table was enjoying some rather old and rare Conterno wines  dating back to a 1937 that  appeared to be in impeccable condition! This wine along with a bottle of 1964 were obviously full of sediment,  so the “sommelier” proceeded to decant the wines  through an ordinary 2008-11-12_0811bleach-white paper  towel  from the kitchen (NOT a cheese cloth) to filter the wine! We looked in disbelief, as did Mr. Conterno himself! As we stared over, the sommelier looked over at me 2008-11-13_0821and in Italian said “This is what you have to do with the old wines!”. I have never seen a wine filtered thru ordinary bleach-white kitchen paper before! The paper worked so inadequately, that the wine had difficulty passing through and therefore wine was wasted as he placed the still soaking paper towel in a small dish to the side..  Please look at the photo’s I managed to snap so you can understand what we were all in disbelief over..

We were so taken aback by this that we completely forgot about the excellent food and the glass of 2001 Monfortino we had in front of us! What a shame because the food was truly great and deserving of its Michelin Star.

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Pork two ways: Served on red beet purée and fennel purée

The next night I had dinner alone at Ristorante Enoclub. The name suggested their expertise with wine. I enjoyed a glass of Dolcetto with the starter, a local veal tartare.  Before finishing the starter I ordered a glass of the 2003 Josetta Saffirio Barolo to enjoy with the main course, roasted rabbit. The server cleared my starter once I finished and over the next 10-15 minutes two different servers told me that my glass of Barolo was on its way. The restaurant was about a third full, and there were 3 servers working. Each of which was quickly passing my table continuously with their hands empty.

My main course of roasted rabbit was finally served. No glass of Barolo yet. I sat with my main course in front of me for no less than 10 minutes. I finally decided that I was going to stand up and leave. As I do, the server comes over immediately and says, your glass of wine is on its way! I told her it was too late as the rabbit had become cold. They said they would re-fire the rabbit. I told them that they needed to learn a bit about the service of wine, and politely asked for my bill for the first course and glass of wine so I could leave. They told me there was no need to pay if I was unsatisfied and so I walked out, unsatisfied.

My attitude may seem a bit extreme to some of you out there, and it probably is. Nobody ever told me years ago when  I started to study and work with wine, that I would become so picky about its service, that I would at times let it ruin my evening.

Oh well, I still enjoy my wine experiences 95% of the time, so I will be grateful for that!

Category: 1 WINE, 8 FOOD

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About
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

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Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com