Great Merlot made in Tuscany
Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is a successful grape of the Bordeaux region in France, that has been planted all over the world. There are sought-after wines made with Merlot like Château Petrus in Pomerol (France). At the same time, Merlot is sometimes blamed for its simplicity.
Who did not laugh while watching the cult movie “Sideways” when Miles shouts: “If anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any fu**ing merlot!”?
Merlot wines are deeply coloured, with juicy and soft taste; they are highly flavoured with mainly fruity aromas. They are sensual too, easy to drink when young, but the bests are also suitable for a long bottle ageing.
Tuscany has proved to produce outstanding Merlots. As a matter of fact, Merlot is nowadays the second black grape variety cultivated in Tuscany after the local Sangiovese.
The first successful Merlot to be created in Tuscany was “L’Apparita” by Castello di Ama, a winery in Gaiole in Chianti. The first vintage of L’Apparita was in 1985, and it quickly gained acclaim worldwide. In a blind tasting in Switzerland L’Apparita outperformed all the world’s great Merlot, including Petrus.
L’Apparita comes from a single vineyard on top of a hill at 490 m (1,607 ft) with clay soil, which benefits from a cool microclimate. The wine is classy with a bright ruby red hue and layers of flavours: raspberry, black cherry, orange peel, chocolate, cigar, nutmeg. It is stunning on the palate, with a refined silky texture and a savoury sustained finish. It is also a long-lived wine, that you can age for years.
In 1988 Lodovico Antinori, founder of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia in Bolgheri (coast of Tuscany), created Masseto, a 100 % Merlot, that in a blind tasting routed the great French and Californian merlots. Masseto is made from a very particular vineyard, that stands out, as it is a single block of clay that resembles the soil of Pomerol in Bordeaux. Here Merlot grapes turn into concentrated wines.
Masseto is deep to the sight and everything in the smell is exalted to the maximum: the fruity of the merlot, the fragrance of the Mediterranean herbs, the profusion of spices and the aroma of smoked meat. It is big and impressive; its texture is velvety and binds to a balsamic finish, that stays with you for a long time.
Today Masseto has stratospheric prices and is one of the few Italian wines listed on the British stock index of the great wines of the world.
Outstanding Merlots joined the scene in the following years: in 1991 Frescobaldi started making Lamaione from his estate in Montalcino, ever devoted to Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese); since 1994 Le Macchiole has been producing Messorio in Bolgheri, not far from the Masseto’s vineyard. In the same year, two other successful Merlots were born: Redigaffi produced by Tua Rita in the coastal area of Tuscany and Galatrona, produced by Petrolo in the hills between Florence and Arezzo (eastern Tuscany). All these wines are of the highest quality, with differences due to changed growing place and winemaker.
There are now countless great Merlots made in Tuscany! I apologize to all wineries that I did not mention in this article: they all deserve attention.
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Arezzo, Bolgheri, Brunello di Montalcino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Castello di Ama, Château Petrus, Florence, Frescobaldi, Gaiole in Chianti, Galatrona, L’Apparita, Lamaione, Le Macchiole, Lodovico Antinori, Masseto, Merlot, Messorio, Petrolo, Redigaffi, Sangiovese, Sideways, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Tuscany