By Rick Riozza

At this time in our desert wine community, the holidays, families, friends, and snowbirds gladly appear and there is no better way to exhibit brotherly affection than for us to join with all the good company for a warm toast along with a fine bottle of wine. I appreciate all your readers putting up with my remarks this past year; and after all, it’s just wine we’re having fun with. Really—the finest thing for us vino lovers to reveal, is a humble and giving heart.

Even to this day, an older generation of wine lovers still equate Chianti to the stuff that filled most of those bulging round wine bottles with its woven-straw covering known as a fiasco—Italian for flask. And most of the wine was mediocre—and some of it really bad—but the bottles were sure fun & decorative.

However, for the last 30 years or so, Chianti’s marvelous potential has come to light. And the Chianti region in the hills of Tuscany is both the actual and spiritual home of the Sangiovese grape.


Some years, Tuscany produces more than 60 million cases of wine, of which some 8 million are Chianti. It is also the main grape in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano and the legendary Brunello di Montalcino.

Sangiovese: The name derives from the Latin meaning “the blood of Jove (Jupiter)”, thus, this red wine can be strong and bold with aromas of black cherry and violets with earthy mineral sanguine flavors along with cherry, plum, strawberry, spice, almonds, tobacco, vanilla, and coffee. And unless you were raised in Italy, it’s probably those sanguine notes that have kept the vino novice away—Merlot and Syrah possibly being the better fruity wines to begin your vino adventure.

Sangiovese is also known for its high acidity and that’s what keeps the wine refreshing so it goes most agreeably with well-seasoned foods. So what better holiday wine to consider for The Holiday Platter than a delicious one from Tuscany.

Most of you foodies are also Italophiles and what a great time of year to add a classy and tasty wine to match up with your creative and/or traditional dishes. Of course that doesn’t mean you’ll forego your favorite Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Cab—goodness! The more the merrier, but I assure you, the vini toscani will well complement your meal.

Modernly, Chianti became better when stricter rules & regs forced winemakers to consider the best formula for the potential world class wine with the Classico and Riserva. So Sangiovese would dominate and other less recognized grapes were minimized.

On the other side of things, excellent winemakers found the rules restrictive, so they portioned internationals varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to the blend—thus creating another version of “Chianti” wine: “the super Tuscan”. And just like the “cult-cabernet sauvignon” aficionados, there is certainly the international cluster of “cult-super Tuscans”.

If there is one commonality of these two wonderful types of Tuscan wines, the best examples contain deep delicious satiny fruit flavors along with a dry, uplifting acidity that pair sensationally well with food.

Two absolutely stellar recommendations for the holidays and beyond are the Frescobaldi NipozzanoVecchie Viti, Chianti Riserva 2011, and, the super-Tuscan Ruffino Modus.

The Nipozzano Vecchie Viti (Old Vines)” under $30., is a combination of 90% Sangiovese and 10% black Malvasia, Canaiolo and Colorino, that boasts a ruby-red color that is aged 24 months, according to the tradition, in big oak barrels. This wine, historically dedicated to new births in the Frescobaldi family, originates from the oldest vines of Castello di Nipozzano, endowed with deep root systems.

This wine is one of the most delicious Chianti I’ve had in a long time. Any wine lover still skeptical of Sangiovese, this wine will simply warm your heart. It’s just bursting with aromas of wild rose, violets, lavender, and dark fruit with flavors of ripe but fresh fruit that include cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry with that barrel vanilla character. Full-bodied and mild tannins, spicy holiday notes of clove and star anise notes follow in along with classic Tuscan minerality. A Christmastime Chianti indeed!

Another magnificent wine for these times, also under $30, is the super Tuscan 2011 Ruffino Modus Toscana IGT. This is a wine blend 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot. It’s robed in a rich dark ruby color with purple hue. Those around the table will be describing this wine’s aromas as “plum, dried fruit, savory herbs, leather, smoke, tar, mocha, cigar-box, with a palate of equally enticing flavors as black cherry, blackberry, chocolate, ceder, sweet spices, earthy mint & cellar floor.

The wine is full-bodied with supple tannins, truly luscious with deep fruit flavor that’s perfectly balanced. It’s a stunner! This wine will definitely bring the holiday comradely of the Chianti lovers and the Cab-Merlot followers together in one great bottle of wine.

And to add to the holiday festivities, Ruffino winery is pleased to present the Ruffino Modus Luminaria. This beautiful gift box and decorative lantern was developed in collaboration with Milan-based design school,, and features a bottle of the Modus wine.

Inspired by traditional Florentine Renaissance-era architecture, the outer sleeve displays an intricately cut design, beautifully highlighted by the elegant brushed metal finish. The varnished wood box in rich sapphire complements the iconic Modus label.

Once the wine is enjoyed, simply remove the metal sleeve and place over a small candle to cast a festive glow on any holiday gathering.

The Ruffino Modus Luminaria gift box is available on line for around $85. It makes for a great Christmas present: Two beautiful gifts in one!
Buone Feste & Buon Natale.