Rolling the Dice on a 1979 Chianti Rufina #ItalianFWT

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 1979 and 2011

A chance to compare a recent vintage with the same wine from 1979

Chianti Extravaganza with #ItalianFWT
This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is digging deep into Chianti. Everyone knows about Chianti, but there is so much more to learn, even for enthusiasts. We hope you enjoy our exploration. Take a look further down in this post to find a dozen different takes on Chianti, the best known wine from all of Italy.

Evaporation from a wine bottle over 38 years

1979 vs. 2011 – Every older bottle of wine is both a time machine and a gamble

Aged Chianti: A Gamble and a Time Machine
I don’t usually think about putting aside Chianti for 20+ years. I  consider it as “ready to go” and not really a wine for aging. Chianti is enjoyable young, often with plenty of earthy aromatics even a few years out from vintage. However, I knew one of my favorite local shops had a small supply of truly old Chianti from a trusted producer and local distributor known for properly cellaring their wines.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 1979 and 2011

Both are beautiful, 32 years apart

Chianti or not, every older wine purchase is a gamble, so many things can happen over all those years. Even a small flaw will be enhanced over time. Was the wine properly cellared? Did you know how to handle the wine even when you took it into your possession?

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 1979

Color fades a bit and takes on a warmer tone as a red wine ages. Beautiful!

Where Were You in 1979?
On the flip side, an older bottle of wine is a mini-time machine. Where (and who) were you when those grapes were growing on the vine? In 1979, I graduated from college. I was a brand new Ensign in the US Navy. I was just finishing up Submarine Officer School and had been assigned to the USS Glenard P. Lipscomb (SSN685), a submarine that today sits cut into pieces in a large scrapyard. I was young and in love, but I wasn’t married. My girlfriend at the time is now my wife of 34 years!

Rufina and Fattoria Selvapiana
Fattoria Selvapiana has a long and fascinating history under the stewardship of the Giuntini family for five generations since 1827. The current managers of the property are actually the adopted sons of Falesco Giuntini, being the offspring of the longtime facility manager from 1953-1990. That’s loyalty to your employees and associates! The property totals 250 hectares, with only 58 hectares under vine. The remainder are maintained with olives or left to forest.

The family’s mission over all these years has been to raise the reputation of the Rufina appellation to stand shoulder to shoulder with Chianti Classico. They farm organically and since 1992 have used long macerations and native yeasts in the cellar. The Rufina appellation is physically separate from the more famous Chianti Classico area. A map of the Chianti Rufina DOCG area here.

The moral of the story? When you’re looking for high quality Chianti from a historic source, you can look beyond the black rooster of Chianti Classico. Try some of the other villages, like Rufina!

19790 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva

A well made wine can last for many years. This was mature but still lively.

Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva DOC 1979 ($100 from Sunfish Cellars)
Eye: Clear, pale garnet with a definite wide warm brick edge.
Nose: Clean, medium- intensity. Leather, raisins, grandpa’s closet, dried cherries far in the background.
Mouth: 12% alcohol by volume (abv) Bone dry, medium+ acidity, medium- tannins, medium- body. Still lively and a bit astringent; lean and old school. Raisins, figs and sour cherries, spicy and leathery with a nice long finish. Particularly good with our Aglione Roast Chicken at dinner.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva 2011

At 2011 this wine already has a few years under its’ belt.

Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva “Vigneto Bucerchiale” DOCG 2011 ($23 at Sunfish Cellars)
Since 1979, the Vigneto Bucerchiale, a single vineyard, has been elevated as the flagship wine of Fattoria Selvapiana. It’s made from 100% Sangiovese, from old vines surrounding the estate house.

Eye: Clear, pale ruby with a wide ruby edge. Only a littler darker than the older wine.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Cherries and leather. You can get a sense of the 30+ year old wine in the nose of the new wine. You can tell they’re related. Cool!
Mouth: This wine is 15% abv, although it carries it well. Dry, medium acidity, medium tannins, medium+ body. More tannic than the older wine, seems less brightly acidic. While not fruit forward, the fruit is highlighted more and stands in front of the other components.

Two Selvapiana Chianti Rufina’s with Aglione Roast Chicken
We paired our Chianti duo with a simple roast chicken stuffed with a fresh herb rub typical of north-central Italy. For an aged red wine, I wanted a dish with herbal interest but something that wouldn’t overpower the more delicate older wine. Our chicken did the trick! The herbal influence was gentle and allowed the older aromas and flavors of the wine to shine.

See What Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel Buddies Are Sharing
Join our Italian Food Wine and Travel group on Saturday Oct. 7 at 10am CDT on Twitter as we discuss our Chianti findings. We’ll all be posting and chatting, join us! Just look for the #ItalianFWT hashtag on Twitter Saturday morning!

See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer:

Aglione ingredients: fresh sage, rosemary, juniper berries, sea salt and garlic

Aglione ingredients for a flavorful rub

Aglione Roast Chicken

Aglione is a traditional rub used for roasting meats and potatoes in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The aglione recipe I used is from Biba’s Taste of Italy by Biba Caggiano

Aglione Ingredients

  • 3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 10 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 1 tsp good quality sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Aglione Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients on a cutting board and chop and mix them until they are finely chopped. Add a bit of extra virgin olive oil to moisten and mix well.

Aglione Roast Chicken Ingredients

  • 1 recipe of Aglione (above)
  • 1 whole roaster chicken around 4 lbs.
  • 3 idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (cut in half, then quarter lengthwise for wedges)
  • EVOO, salt and pepper

Aglione Roast Chicken Instructions

  • 4 hours in advance of cooking
  • Slip a finger under the skin of the chicken to form pockets on the breasts and thighs.
  • Stuff the aglione in all the pockets, any excess can be rubbed inside the cavity of the bird.
  • Cover loosely and place the chicken in the refrigerator
  • 1.5 hours before eating
  • Pre-heat the oven to 425 F
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator
  • Toss the potato wedges with a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper.
  • Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan with extra room.
  • Add the potato wedges around the chicken.
  • Roast the chicken, turning it over every 30 minutes and stirring the potato wedges.
  • Roast the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 F in the deepest part of the breast and thigh.  For a 4 lb. chicken, this is usually 1 to 1.5 hours, but use temperature as your guide as to when the bird is done.
  • Pour off the pan juices and separate the fat.  The pan juices can be spooned over the chicken and potatoes at the table.

Try out a 1979 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina at


18 Responses to “Rolling the Dice on a 1979 Chianti Rufina #ItalianFWT”
  1. Lynn says:

    Like how you point out there is good “Chianti” of all types, whether Classico or not. And nice visual and description between old and new. Interesting to note the diffs in bottle (I need to research “Vide”- not familiar with that). I have a feeling I’ll have a long list of wines to try after the #ItalianFWT today, Fattoria Selvapiano is on it!

  2. TheWiningHour says:

    1979! What a vintage! I appreciate how the color changes as the wine matures. Great post. the way…can I come for dinner one day?

  3. Oh my this sounds so good! And we have a roasting chicken in the fridge! Now to find the juniper berries. And if not tonight — because I drank up the Chianti — hopefully soon!

  4. I let a lot of my italian wines age and I’m always nervous about opening them. if I open them are they ready or did they past their point of return. Rufina is known to have some great wines and I know this producer is typically a solid producer. I usually will hold onto something if I at least know it’s from a trusted producer. The meal looks amazing.

  5. This looks delicious, Jeff. And I loved reading about where you were in 1979. I was in first grade and just moving back to the United States from Holland where my dad had been stationed for the past three years.

  6. culinarycam says:

    This looks delicious, Jeff. And I loved reading about where you were in 1979. I was in first grade and just moving back to the United States from Holland where my dad had been stationed for the past three years.

  7. What an interesting comparison of vintages, not only for tasting, but also for pairing. I love a roasted chicken and have made the same rub for quite a while, but will try the Aglione rub next time…with Chianti of course!

  8. Jill Barth says:

    Jeff! Great post and a really fun month. I have to admit, reading about your early years “young and in love” was a highlight for me. It really brings essence to the long and lovely lives of our wine – they wait and wait while we do our thing (two kids later!) and open up when we welcome them. Ah, so fascinating!

    Thanks for an excellent session this month!

  9. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Aged wine roulette is always so much fun! And wonderful to get the chance to compare with a newer vintage. The chicken dinner looks delicious of course!

  10. I like that you chose Chianti Rufina. The chicken looks great. Hard to compare an older wine with a young wine. They actually both sound great. Well done!

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