Rufina - Confessions of a wine tourist

by Caesar Glebbeek

Rufina, Tuscany. If you happen to sneeze while the train is about to stop at the station, you will have squandered your chance to get off - it's piccolo! Rufina also happens to be the smallest zone within the Chianti zone, but it nevertheless produces some outstanding Chianti's.

The best known perhaps being Castello di Nipozzano's single-vineyard Montesodi made by the Frescobaldi firm. But if you can't afford such a bottle, there are plenty less expensive, but still excellent Chianti Rufina wines around: Villa di Vetrice, and Fattoria di Basciano are two that spring to mind - if you can find them, that is! More easy to locate is Nipozzano Riserva, another winner from the folks at Frescobaldi. It was yet another hot and sunny day on 8 October 2001 when I visited the town of Rufina to see what it had to offer in terms of sightseeing in general and grapes in particular.

Rufina has no historic centre and thus offers no interesting, old buildings of architectural beauty. The signposting for several of the Fattoria's in the hills around the town was so confusing that after ten minutes walking I ended up at the same spot where I had originally started! Oh well. Next I checked the shops in town for nice vinos from the Rufina zone, but the selection on offer was rather poor. Off then to visit the "Museo della vite e del vino" and the Enoteca, both situated in Villa di Poggio Reale. The openings days and hours weren't clear from the tourist information I had read in various brochures (one mentioned that a visit to the Museo had to be pre-booked at the town hall in Rufina - hardly an attractive way to lure tourists to one's town), but since the huge gates were wide-open I walked up the lane to the villa. Not only were the museum and enoteca both closed, but the villa (apparently built to a plan by Michelangelo) looked like it could do with a massive overhaul. Most grand villas have nice gardens, but the gardener at Villa di Poggio Reale must have retired many years ago! Next door to the villa was an ever greater mess to be "admired": thousands of corks and tons of other rubbish left behind by producer Spalletti, who used to bottle their Chianti Rufina wine - Poggio Reale - from this location (Spalletti has since relocated to Greve in Chianti). Anyway, after a stroll around, I headed back to the iron gates only to find them closed: they had locked me in! I had to find a hole in the fencing to escape the villa... Sightseeing makes one hungry, so it was high time for lunch. Before heading out to Rufina I had picked up a tip about where to eat in town: Ristorante Grazinni located in Albergo La Speranza (Via Piave, 14). And presto, they were even open for business! It was certainly atmospheric inside and there were plenty locals eating there (always a good sign, of course). A charming old-time type restaurant where one eats extremely well (normal prices, by the way) and can enjoy a nice bottle of Chianti Rufina. Concluding, if I ever make it back to Rufina, you can find me at Ristorante Grazinni!

[Disclaimer: I do not get free vinos from listed producers and restaurants. Unfortunately!]