Sangiovese is the dominant red wine grape of Tuscany. Its signature embraces firm tannins and medium to high acidity, yielding a stout-hearted wine that marries well with food but can finish a little bitter. Ruffino, best known in this country for its stable of Chiantis, has mellowed sangiovese in its 2009 Il Ducale, a blend that adds the softness of merlot and the bramble of syrah to good effect. It is readily available, going for $17 or less at supermarkets and elsewhere.
The 2009 leads off with a lush nose of ripe black cherries, a bit of bramble and some understated fig. Cherry and plum with a distinct bramble edge dominate at first sip, but at mid palate there appears a nice cranberry tang softened with the thoroughly agreeable light bitterness of wood ash. The 2009 finishes medium long and smoky, with a farewell note of espresso beans and dark chocolate.
The result is an approachable but complex red that will pair nicely with, for example, a rich mushroom risotto, grilled lamb chops or a finishing course of blue-veined Gorgonzola and figs.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.