Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva 2005

First off all, let me say thank you to my in-laws for this bottle; my family has always had an informal gift-giving rule that goes something like this: “if you can’t eat or drink it, don’t give it.” I’ve probably bought no more than a case of Italian wine in my entire life, so this represents a lovely departure from the norm for me.Being totally unfamiliar with Italian wines, I had to cheat and look this up: this is sangiovese (OK, I knew that much), but with a fruit salad of other stuff thrown in and making up 10% of the blend (malvasia nera, colorino, and a couple of others).Being only marginally familiar with sangiovese in general – notably through encounters with Penfolds and Bonny Doon wines labeled as such – I wasn’t really expected this wine to smell like it does. It doesn’t smell like the odd, anchovy-esque fruit bomb I usually associate with this grape; instead, it smells deathly serious, like some movie prop “Italian wine” served by an extra from Goodfellas. It smells like smoked meats drying in a strawberry jam factory, warm wooden floors and sawdust below, hazy springtime air blowing in through a window. Frankly, it smells like it’s spent a fair amount of time in barrel; what fruit there is seems well hidden behind casky support.It’s surprising to taste the wine; yes, it’s every bit as tannic as I (stereotypically) expect from an Italian red – although it’s not rustically so, it is a bit off-putting – but there’s pretty much a totally out of control fruit orgy going on here as well. Oh my. This stuff is far from demure; although there is just a bit of the smoked fish note I usually expect from sangiovese, it’s decidedly overridden by suggestions of plum tartlets and floral honey. The finish last for quite some time; it reminds me of the smell you get when you find a pawn shop humidor that hasn’t been used in a decade: dusty, faintly tobacco, and softly wooden.On the whole, I suppose what you have here is an Old World wine that’s been made New World enough to be acceptable to a non-Italian audience; yes, there are still tannins and wonderful woody notes from barrel age and quality cooperage, but there’s also a heart of very ripe, sunny Tuscan fruit that should win over anyone who’s initially a bit put off by the somewhat severe nose. All in all, this is a delicious drink and a not very subtle remind that I am course missing out on a lot of quality drinking by never, ever remembering to buy Italian wines. Mea maxima culpa, indeed.Marchesi di Frescobaldi
Price: $20
Closure: Cork