Florence is a beautiful city but it can also be crowded and intense, especially in summer. If you are looking for a change of pace and beautiful scenery, Chianti Rufina is the perfect place to visit.
The small village of Rufina, located about 12 miles northeast of Florence, offers picturesque landscapes with vineyards, olive trees, farmhouses, churches, and castles. This area has also been known since the Middle Ages for producing some of the region’s finest Tuscan red wines.
Chianti Rufina: The Wine of Florence
Because of its proximity to the historic center of Florence, Chianti Rufina has always been considered the wine “drunk by the Florentines.”
Its traditions date back centuries to the Italian Plague of the 1600s, when the wine was served at the little wine holes (buchette del vino) carved into the walls of the stone buildings. Both rich and poor townspeople could refill their bottles with wine, sourced from wealthy landowners of countryside vineyards, without paying any taxes for the wine.
There are seven subzones across the entire Chianti wine region, which covers more than 30,000 acres of land,
Rufina is the smallest of the seven subzones. Yet, with only 25 producers, it is one of the most highly regarded. Twenty-one are members of the Consorzio Chianti Rufina, which was organized to promote these premium wines and uphold their quality.
To be labeled as Chianti Rufina DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest level of Italian wine classification, the wines must contain at least 70 percent of indigenous Sangiovese grapes. The wines can be aged as long as thirty years.
I Veroni Wines
The four-generation I Veroni Winery began in 1897, when current owner Lorenzo Mariani’s great grandfather purchased an ancient estate.
Using sustainable viticulture practices and traditional methods for aging, the winery now produces a range of organic wines. Lorenzo wanted to continue and build upon the family’s deep roots in Rufina. After studying law in Florence, he returned to work alongside his father.
When he began working at the winery in 1996, it produced only 1000 bottles a year. Since then, his technical and entrepreneurial expertise has enabled the winery to boost production to more than 150,000 bottles of organic wines.
The winery stretches over 70 hectares (more than 170 acres) of land. The hilly terrain is ideal for the production of Sangiovese grapes because it sits between two rivers (the Arno and the Sieve) with a unique microclimate that offers cooler temperatures at night and higher elevation than other subzones in Chianti.
The soils are composed primarily of clay and limestone and the wines produced there offer a true expression of the terroir. In addition to grape growing, some 4000 olive trees are also cultivated on the property.
Two signature I Veroni wines are:
- I Domi Chianti Rufina is made with a blend of 20-year-old vines of Sangiovese (90%), Colorino and Canaiolo indigenous grapes from a single vineyard. The wine is aged for at least a year in oak barrels.
- Quono Chianti Rufina Riserva is made with 100% indigenous Sangiovese grapes from a 30-year-old vineyard. The wine is aged in French Oak barrels for at least 18 months.
Elegant but approachable, I Veroni wines are robust, fruity, and slightly tannic with bold acidity. The wines pair well with grilled meats (including Bistecca alla Fiorentina), beef stews, pasta dishes, pizzas and hard cheeses.
I Veroni has become the market leader in Florence, where I Veroni Chianti Rufina can be found in most bars, trattorias and restaurants. Mariani attributes this success, in part, to his bond with a childhood friend and I Veroni sales director, Luca Innocenti, who traveled through Florence on a Vespa representing the winery to business owners.
In addition, the wines are exported to more than 30 other countries, including the U.S. which receives 45 percent of these exports.
Garnering popularity and respect
Because the production area of Chianti Classico wines and the number of bottles produced in the subzone are so much larger than that of Chianti Rufina, Chianti Classico wines have greater name recognition.
Also, Chianti Rufina wine has another identity problem: It is often confused with the wines of the Ruffino brand (spelled with two fs), a major producer of Tuscan wines now owned by Constellation Brands.
To help promote and elevate the status of the very best Chianti Rufina Wines, which happen to offer excellent aging potential, I Veroni is part of the Terraelectae project, a collaborative initiative with other wineries. These single-vineyard cru wines are made entirely with Sangiovese grapes and display the Terraelectae label as a seal of quality. I Veroni’s flagship wine, Quona, is part of the Terraelectae project.
Winery visits and hospitality in Rufina
Many of the wineries in this unique and often overlooked corner of Tuscany offer tastings, winery visits and overnight (or longer) stays in a wide variety of accommodations so visitors can gain a better understanding and taste of Chianti Rufina wines.
For example, at I Veroni:
Visitors can take a one-hour guided tour of the cellar (cantina) to learn the winery’s history and the different facets of winemaking. At the end of the tour, they can participate in tastings of Chianti Rufina wine and EVO olive oil.
The winery also offers vineyard tours in off-road vehicles This immersive experience includes opportunities to learn about the different wines and methods of cultivation.
In addition, visitors can arrange stays in one of eight refined, country-style apartments at Podere Pianottoli, a restored 17th-century farmhouse in the middle of the winery’s I Domi Vineyard. A blend of old and new, the apartments offer modern amenities including air-conditioning, satellite TV, a swimming pool, and an on-site farm-to-table restaurant that sources local foods.
Because Italy has such a strong tradition of pairing good food with good wines, I Veroni also arranges cooking classes and courses, or can even book a personal Tuscan chef to cook at a guest’s apartment.
A respite from the crowds and more
Rufina is conveniently reachable from Florence by car in about a half hour. Visitors can also take a 20-minute train ride to Pontassieve, followed by a short taxi ride to their destination. In addition, many tour companies will pick up guests at their hotels in Florence and provide a guided tour of wineries in the subzone.
Whether it’s a day trip or a lengthier stay, visitors to Rufina will be charmed by the region’s scenic beauty coupled with Tuscan hospitality. Moreover, they’ll be wowed by the local cuisine and sip a wine they may have never heard about or tasted before.
Writing in the latest edition of The Wine Bible, wine expert Karen MacNeil writes: The best wines from these zones [Chianti] are very fine and, in particular, wines from Chianti Rufina can be stunning.”