All about

Chianti Rùfina

The Land

Tuscany position in Italy

Chianti Rùfina, a wine region located in the northeast of the city of Florence, on the slopes of the Tosco-Romagna Apennine, is historically considered one of the most significant in Tuscany. Located about 20km from the center of the Tuscan seat, it develops within five different cities: Rufina, Pontassieve, Londa, Pelago and Dicomano, in an high hill environment whose climate is highly influenced both by the passage of the Sieve River, the largest pour of the Arno, that by the proximity of the mountains of the Appennino Tosco-Romagnolo. These environmental characteristics, along with the geological conformation, create a very varied and heterogeneous micro-zonation. The sub-denomination of Rùfina is the smallest and the highest on the sea level, among the other seven sub-denominations of the Chianti area: it occupies an area of 12.483 HA, of which 750 (with the potential to grow up to about 1000) are registered to the Albo of Chianti Rùfina. Thanks to that every year are produced about 27,000 HL, the equivalent of 3,500,000 bottles. Today there are 22 different producers in Chianti Rùfina: 20 of them are associated with the Chianti Rufina Consortium, which safeguards and promotes quality all around the world.

Map of Chianti Zones with Rùfina

Chianti Rùfina’s wines

Logo Chianti Rùfina

Chianti Rùfina is an elegant wine with a decisive, rightly tannic and with a great acidity, it is described by a scent that refers to a complex bouquet of wild berries and spices. The wine is also characterized by a singular longevity (attested to some reserves of particular vineyards, even over forty years). The typical grapes of the area, which must be used for at least 70% of the blend of the wine, is the Sangiovese, one of the most complex vineyards to grow. It’s very hard to find a more suitable area for its cultivation respect to the Rùfina one!

The etymology of the word Sangiovese is uncertain: it is thought that it can be derived from San Giovanni, or by dialectical forms (for example it is also called “San Giovannina” or “primaticcia”, for its early sprouting), or even by Blood of Jupiter (Sanguis Jovis) for its red blood color.

The Sangiovese grapes was first identified in 1590 by Gianvettorio Sederini that describe the “Sangioveto or Sanghiogheto” as “juicy and full of wine … that never fails”. In 1850 it has been identified two different biotypes, which are still the most important today:

  • Sangiovese grosso (“sweet” or “gentle”)
  • Small Sangiovese (“strong” or “mountain”)

It is only in 1906 that Molon formalizes the ampelographic diversification of these two grapes.

Sangiovese is a vine very linked to the territory, as shown by the fact that it has assumed different names according to the cultivation area (Brunello in Montalcino, Prugnolo in Montepulciano, Morellino in Grossetano, Sangioveto in Chianti). It is not often used purely because it can express itself to the best only in particularly well-liked territories, like Chianti Rùfina. At the same time, it is not so simple to assembly it with other different grapes because it’s easy to distort the color and the aromas of the Sangiovese vine. For its high acidity and elegant tannins, it is a very long-lasting wine.

Using Fiasco for wine shipping

Glass Blowers

Starting from the 14th century “Fiasco” became the typical Tuscan container for wine: in 1574 a Granducal ban (type of law) fixed its capacity to 2,280 liters corresponding to a “half quarter” volume. This amount of wine was certified by a stamp with the lily of Florence in coating and, later, in the glass. This glass container, pear-shaped and with a very long neck, was blown to the mouth by the flask. In the center of the city of Florence, the corner of the intersection between Condotta Street and Calzaioli Street was known as the “Canto de’ Fiascai” (literally: “Song of the Fiascai”, the people who sell flask bottles), and it still preserves its name, because here many of these craftsmen had their own shops or warehouses. The Fiascaio did not only produce the glass container (naked fiasco), but also took care of its coating using marsh grass such as the raft: the stitching had the function of protecting the glass from the shocks and at the same time also served as a thermal insulator against the alterations of the drink.

However, since 1860, the wines of Rufina began to be sold within the “industrialized” Fiasco rugged glass, the bottle that made the history of Chianti. This container was first produced in the Chianti Rufina area, and in particular in the city of Pontassieve.

stitching of flasks

Between 1856 and 1862 the Val di Sieve and in particular the territory of Pontassieve received a great economic impulse thanks to the laying of the construction of the train line. It was thanks to the railroad that the Melini Cellars, founded in 1705 and located in Pontassieve, were able to spread their invention throughout the world: the “modern fiasco”, realized in collaboration with a glasswork of Pontassieve, owned by the De Grolèe family.

From Rùfina, the bottles filled with wine were transported to Florence loaded in a “pyramid” like form and placed on long bows barely towed by horses; to build the basket with about 2000 fragile flasks it was needed mastery and experience: only few people were able to build that masterpiece of architecture.

wagon with flasksAlong the streets of Florence, a careful drainage operation was carried out in front of the tavern or the restaurants. Here, every fiasco was accompanied by a tuft of straw inserted in the straw of the flask. It was used to remove a thin layer of oil that had been put on the wine to preserve from oxidation while it was inflamed. During the Florentine Republic a special huge pyramid was built every 29 of September to celebrate the arrival of the new wine: after receiving the blessing in the church of Calzaioli Street, the wine was brought to the “Palazzo della Signoria” (the city hall palace), where the Gonfaloniere (a municipal magistrate in the Republic of Florence) brinded together with Priorities to the health of the Florentine people. Traditionally, the carriage that was created for this event was called “Carro Matto” (literally “Crazy Carriage”): still today, in memory of this tradition, each year the Carro Matto is rebuilt as in the ancient time, with straw-strapped and wetsome wires to improve its workability and allow them to be more stable for the entire structure and to be brought to Florence for the traditional blessing during the event of Bacco Artigiano.

Each year a representation of the Court of the Florentine Republic starts from the Palagio di Parte Guelf, then goes on Calimala Street, pass through Roma Street, and San Giovanni Place where it reaches the Chariot. After the blessing of the wine by the Religious Authorities of the Duomo’s church, the procession continues through Calzaiuoli Street to reach Signoria Place, where the offer of the wine of the Carro Matto is blessed to the Signoria of Florence. At the end of the event, there is always a perform of the the musicians of the Historical Court of the Florentine Republic and the Uffizi Wavers.

The History of Chianti Rufina

As evidenced by the undeniable potential of the Chianti area, the wine history of these areas dates back to the Etruscan period, VIII Sec. BC, and develops, without interruption, until today. This is evidenced by the many historical finds found in the land as well as the infinite castles, villas and abbeys and to end up in the numerous cellars that enrich the territory at every corner.

The CHIANTI name, however, come probably from the Etruscan language. The etymology is in fact connected to two Etruscan terms:

  • CLANGOR (noise): to remember the clamor of the frequent hunting holes made in the forests of which the area was rich
  • CLANTE (from the Etruscan, water): a common name of Etruscan families spread in the area that remember the wealth of water in the area.

However, it’s only in 1398 that the first official document recalls the use of the term Chianti. The merchant Francesco di Marco Datini, probably founder of the modern banking system, uses this term claiming that Piero di Tino Riccio was creditor of “three florins, twenty-six money and eight denarii, of six white Chianti wine barrels”.

Starting from that moment on there are many testimonies that talk about Chianti wine:

1404: Amedeo Gherardini of Vignamaggio writes that he is sending to Datini a barrel of his Vignamaggio wine reserve, one of the Chianti types.

1427: it is introduced the Tuscan real estate registry, in which Chianti wine areas are identified as “Vermiglio di Brolio, Castellina, Uzzano, Gaiole, Golpaia, Panzano, Lamole”

1536: Saint Lancerio, the first sommelier in history, advises Pope Paul III the consumption of Chianti wine.

1685: Francesco Redi, founder of experimental biology, graduated in philosophy and medicine, publishes in 1865 “Bacco in Toscana” where it’s possible to read:

My tongue has already turned my head off
taste a little, drink this other
robust that boast
to be born in the middle of Chianti
and between stones
he produced it

January 9, 1661: Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he had received two bottles of Florence, better known as Vermiglio Wine. He describes the white and red wines of Florence as wines of good stomach, although the red is “a bit costly”.

17th century: Chianti wine is transported in bottles sealed with oil.

mappa chianti loghi

The key date for the territory of Chianti, and also that of Rùfina, is, however, the year 1716, when it is finally introduced the first production protection of a product not only in Italy but also all over the world.

The Grand Duke of Medici Cosimo III, on September 24, 1716, issued an announcement titled “Above the Declaration of Borders of the Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Valdarno Superiore Regions”: for the first time in history with this document are defined with precision the territorial spheres within which wines had to be produced to obtain the corresponding denomination.

This measure, while setting out the boundaries of the wine to be produced in order to be able to formulate this denomination, did not indicate a production specification to be respected, which is, however, a fundamental element of modern DOC. However, Cosimo III was also careful to promulgate a decree setting up special vigilance production congregations creating, de facto, the current Wine Conservation Consorts.

The kingdom of Cosimo III, the longest in the history of Tuscany, was characterized by a strong political and economic decline, dotted with persecutory campaigns against anyone who did not conform to the rigid Catholic morality. During this period we assisted to a process of involution of scientific research in Tuscany that only few years ago was at the forefront at European level. Governing always on the bankruptcy, Cosimo III was particularly concerned that the importance of the Medici family should not be decimated in the European courts.

However, avoid the concrete risk of extinction of his family, expressly against the imperial edicts, he named his daughter Anna Maria Luisa as his universal heir.

With this move his political and commercial alliances outside the Tuscan borders began to creak. Right at this historic moment characterized by an accelerated economic crisis, Cosimo III was concerned with protecting one of its most profitable resources: wine.

The reading of the measures in question shows that these four wines were the only ones that could be shipped abroad by ship. Observance of precise production standards made it possible to carry out controls to prevent these wines from being adulterated during the journey.

The political measure announced by the Grand Duke aimed to avoid any collapse of the image in European courts following a possible scandal linked to the quality of wine, a true “honour of the nation”.

Bando

In fact, he stated:

“All those wines that will not be produced and made in confined regions can not and should not under any pretext bargain for sailing, for Chianti wine, Pomino, Carmignano and Val d’Arno di Sopra under the penalties contained in the statement notice”.

1851-1877:

: It was around the middle of the nineteenth century that the Barone di Ferro, after a long trip to France, made with the aim of sampling the best “sailed” wines, or suitable for navigation and therefore aging, returned to Italy and carried out numerous studies on the varieties of Sangiovese and other vineyards typical of Tuscany, which grew in the estate of Castello di Brolio.

Following his travels and subsequent studies, in 1872 he came to the formula of what he termed as “perfect wine”:

  • 7/10 of Sangiovese
  • 2/10 of Canaiolo
  • 1/10 of Malvasia or Trebbiano

It was during this period that Chianti, vinified according to this formula, was imposed on all international markets thanks to the election of Florence as Italy’s Capital.

1877: The name of Rùfina is so famous in the world that Ruffino Wineries are founded, whose name derives inspiration from the town of Rùfina.

1932: The Italian government extends the production area of Chianti by creating seven sub-zones:

  1. Classical (that is the oldest Chianti zone summed with newest territories to the south and especially to the north);
  2. Colli Aretini;
  3. Colli Fiorentini;
  4. Colline Pisane;
  5. Colli Senesi;
  6. Montalbano;
  7. Rùfina.

1967: a further extension that leads to the present boundaries.

1996: Montespertoli sub denomination is formed

2014: Chianti Classico separates from other Chianti subterranean areas

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