If there’s one thing that people crave, now more than ever, it’s the touch, smell and taste of things that are real – too much time on Zoom calls and email can chip away at what it means to be human.
Of course, nobody saw the pandemic coming. But as life gets back to normal, people will need nature and good food in the company of other people more than they ever did. Which is what makes Ruffino’s immersive experiences so important – they are not created for the luxury market, where excess and extravagance is on offer. Instead, says Ruffino’s CEO Sandro Sartor, everything is geared towards “beautiful and tasty moments”.
Link to history
Poggio Casciano is a Chianti estate, located about 30 minutes’ drive from Florence, with a history that goes back to Roman times – the name ‘Casciano’ may derive from the name Cassius, a Roman officer who was granted land holdings in the region.
Today, the property is notable for its beautiful Renaissance villa, whose walls are clad with classic Tuscan terracotta. Now the visitor’s centre, it boasts gardens and a courtyard, and an underground tunnel that connects the villa with the winery buildings.
“It’s a perfect interaction of nature and humans,” says Francesco Sorelli, Brand Experience and Communications Director.
Recently, the estate was fully renovated, with a new restaurant opening in 2019: Locanda Le Tre Rane-Ruffino, which means “Three Frogs Inn”; legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci once opened an eatery of the same name on the Ponte Vecchio. It has been built to reflect the identity of Tuscany’s countryside; the building echoes those of tenant farmers from feudal times, while the interior has been created with every aspect of hospitality in mind, from the warm colours to the well-placed lighting, so that guests feel like they belong there.
In addition to the à la carte menu featuring Tuscan courses, eight seasonal menus rotate around the year, showcasing local and seasonal ingredients. Ruffino wines take centre stage: all Tuscan labels are served by the glass or bottle, and guests may also select older vintages and large formats directly from the striking Poggio Casciano cellars. Every dish is designed to pair perfectly with the wine and vice versa, each elevating the taste of the other – a perfect example of the Tuscan table over the centuries.
The team at Ruffino thought long and hard about how they could immerse people in the experience of the estate, so they would feel like they belonged there.
“In 2019 we decided to make a big move from hospitality to a Ruffino brand experience,” says Sartor, adding that what they finally created was an immersive Ruffino experience in the estate of Poggio Casciano, which aims to turn every visitor into a Ruffino wine lover and international ambassador.” People can eat at the restaurant, relax at the hotel and taste at the wine bar, a bottega in Florentine style. And, of course, they can tour the vineyards and winery, all set in the magnificence of Tuscany. However, they choose to experience Poggio Casciano, “we really pamper people and elevate the pleasure of conviviality,” he says, “consistent with what Ruffino wines have always represented.”
They certainly do. Of 97 reviews on TripAdvisor, 94 have rated the experience as “Excellent”, and three have said it’s “Very Good”. Over and over, the reviews remark on how friendly the hosts are.
“Best of all was our brand ambassador,” wrote one. “She created a very intimate experience, despite the size of our group.”
Another said the service was so warm, that it was the highlight, with the excellent wine and food being “the cherry on top”.
Wine and vineyards
Of course, the fundamental purpose of a winery is to make wine, which Ruffino has been doing for more than 140 years. The story begins in 1877, when Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino – who were cousins – began making wine. Although this was a time when most wine was sold and consumed locally, the Ruffinos realised there must be a wider market for good wine – and they bet on the United States. The Ruffino Chianti became the first ever Chianti to arrive in America, where it became a firm favourite in restaurants and on dinner tables. “The fiasco is part of our history!” says Sorelli, referring to the basket bottles that became so famous in restaurants.
The Ruffinos adopted the motto “Here we make ideal wine”, which quickly proved to be more than an advertising slogan, as their wines began winning gold medals in exhibitions across Europe. Towards the end of the century, Ruffino was appointed the official supplier to the Italian royal family, for whom they created the renowned the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva Ducale Oro.
After World War II, Ruffino began to expand and invest in new vineyards, from Chianti Classico to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. And, of course, Poggio Casciano, located just outside the village of Grassina. Today, Ruffino is also known for its Super Tuscan wines, such as Modus, first launched in 1997. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is created from fruit drawn from Poggio Casciano, and consistently attracts critical acclaim, as attested by numerous 90+ ratings by the most important international wine magazines.
Gabriele Tacconi, Ruffino’s Chief Winemaker, sees his job as cherishing Ruffino’s traditions. “I feel great passion and love for the Tuscan landscape, its history, and the high quality of wines that are made here.”
And, like all good wine, it starts in the vineyards.