Wine Review: Il Ducale Ruffino Toscana 2012
Region: Toscana (Tuscany), Italy
Grape: Toscana Red Blend – Sangiovese 55%, Syrah 25%, Merlot 20%
ABV: 13.00 %
For whatever reason, our local liquor store kept getting the 2012 vintage of this particular bottle, so I took that as a sign to give it a go. While French and Spanish wines may be my favorites in the old world, this Italian bottle made a surprising but happily accepted exception. As soon as this Italian red blend hits your tongue, you immediately recognize the comforting, familiar old-world style. I had gotten used to the dark fruit-oak combination, but this red fruit-oak combination was a great surprise.
The average person never says, “I want to spend my days in Bordeaux while drinking wine and enjoying beautiful views.” While Bordeaux would be a great place to do that, people will more often say in small-talk conversation, “Can we just go ride through the hills of Tuscany and drink wine?” or something of that sort. Tuscany is known for its wine, even outside of wine drinkers.
Tuscany, Italy primarily consists of rolling hills with small parts of the region being flat, mountainous, and a beautiful 143mi (230km) coastline. The region also reaches fairly high altitudes, with the highest being 1,804 ft (550 m). The physical geography and the region’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea provide for great temperatures and soils.
This particular bottle is a heavy sangiovese red blend with compliments of syrah and merlot. Sangiovese is the dominant king grape of Tuscany, Italy. Many wineries in the region aim to create single-varietal Sangiovese, but when that is not possible, they use a variety of native Italian grapes or borrow from their French neighbors. This particular vintage and red blend chose the latter, and it turned out wonderfully. The merlot tones down the sangiovese some, providing a mild soft creaminess, and the syrah adds a bit of peppery spices and earthiness. Finally, the standout grape, sangiovese, provides the structure and ties everything together.
Following typical Tuscany fashion, this 2012 vintage led with rich, bright red fruit aromas with heavy undertones of oak and vanilla. Before aerating, there are subtle hints of smokey and earthy notes. As the wine decants, the red fruits tone down just enough with cherry hints remaining, and the earthy aromas only deepen.
The tasting notes found here, in my experience, are very specific to Italian Tuscany wine. The first flavor that comes up is semi-sweet, mild cherry with an undertone of creamy chocolate. Peppered within these tasting notes, tobacco, leather, and earthiness sprinkle their way throughout.
As someone who tends to shy away from wine that stars red fruits as the main act, I love when I find a bottle, such as this one, that expresses the red fruits in such a rich and pleasant way. This reservation with red fruit-forward wines may be due to drinking a lot of jammy, in-your-face California red blends and cabernets. Sometimes, I think I forget that red fruit aromas and notes can be an amazing aspect of wine, especially when done properly.
The very first thought that came to mind as I took the first sip was how balanced and wonderful the overall structure of the wine was. It felt like it was perfect for drinking now but could still last a few more years. The medium-full weight of the wine and overall mouthfeel held the different flavors in so well.
This is one of those bottles that could easily appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers. If you do not typically care for heavier red wine, this is a great bottle to ease you into it. This Tuscany red blend was soft enough to make for easy drinking with beautiful cherry notes. If you want something with a little more complexity or intrigue, this bottle will also work wonders. The syrah and sangiovese provided interesting, tasty notes of earthiness, pepper, and spice in combination. With those in mind, the chocolatey creaminess and bright cherry notes complemented that side very well.
If you want to impress some friends at your next get-together, or if you simply want to enjoy a nice, relaxing red blend, this is the one. It is inexpensive and has had nearly a decade to age if the 2012 vintage is still out there. Pour it in your glass and those around you and slip away.