There are three regions of Italy where great Merlot is produced: Latium (Lazio), Friuli, and the Veneto. Yes, there are many famous bottlings of Merlot from Tuscany, many of them very expensive and many collectible. But when it comes to what I like to drink, these are the regions that deliver the minerality and the tar and goudron that I look for in expressions of Merlot.
These three are also the only regions where Merlot has a tradition that stretches back to the early post-war era. Remember: Sassicaia, originally produced in the 1940s and first released commercially in 1968, was and is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blend; Tignanello was a Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blend that appeared in the 1970s. Ornellaia and its Masseto came later.
Merlot was widely grown especially in Friuli and the Veneto in the years that followed the second world war. When you ask the people who live there why their parents planted Merlot? they invariably tell you that Merlot had always been grown there (at least as long as they can remember).
One of my all-time favorite expressions of Italian Merlot is produced by Vignalta in the Colli Euganei in the province of Padua. I feel an especially deep bond to the wines because they are produced in the area where my beloved Petrarch spent his last years (and where he transcribed the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, the subject of my doctoral thesis).
The wine, aged in old tonneaux, was showing brilliantly last night and its acidity gave it a freshness that really took our enjoyment over the top. So good with the rare porterhouse.
Keens was wonderful as always and it was such a treat to bump into manager Bonnie as we left.
I’ll be eating my way through the city this week… stay tuned…