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Ecco Domani Merlot 1999
This wine clearly attests to the rising notoriety of the Merlot in general, and Italian Merlot in particular, by offering a complex, full-flavored style but without the more astringent tannins characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon. Ruby red in color, with aromas of currants and cherries, Ecco Domani Merlot offers supple plum and black cherry flavors on the palate, and a ripe, rich finish.
The vibrant flavors and good acidity of this Merlot make it an excellent match with a wide range of foods, including tomato-based pasta dishes, grilled meats, poultry, and marinated grilled vegetables.
Young Italian winemaker Fabrizio Gatto and his colleagues scour Italy's premier growing regions for wines that express the best characteristics of their areas. Those wines are then fashioned into final blends and sent to Trento, Italy, where they are bottled in a state-of-the-art facility. The Ecco Domani wines that ultimately arrive in the U.S. exhibit the best of what Italy has to offer.
"By choosing the very best grapes from the finest regions of Italy, it is possible for us to craft exquisite wines with marvelous complexity. The intricate fruit flavors which result in the finished wines are unsurpassed, and marry well with a variety of superb cuisines," says Fabrizio Gatto.
Since the debut of Ecco Domani wines in 1996, it has become the leading premium Italian brand in the United States.
A mountainous northern Italian region heavily influenced by German culture, Trentino-Alto Adige is actually made up of two separate but similar regions: Alto Adige and Trentino. Trentino, the southern half, is primarily Italian-speaking and largely responsible for the production of large volumes of wine made from non-native grapes. There is a significant quantity of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio produced here, and Merlot is common as well.
The rugged terrain of German-speaking Alto Adige (also referred to as Südtirol) is more focused on smaller-scale viticulture, and greater value is placed on local varieties, though international varieties are widely planted as well. Sheltered by the Alps from harsh northerly winds, many of the best vineyards are planted at extreme altitude on steep slopes to increase sunlight exposure. Dominant red varieties include the bold, herbaceous Lagrein and delicate, strawberry-kissed Schiava, in addition to some Pinot Nero. The primary white grapes are Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc, as well as smaller plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Müller Thurgau, and others. These tend to be bright and refreshing with crisp acidity and just the right amount of texture. Some of the highest quality Pinot Grigio in Italy is made here.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc, and on the Left Bank, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.
In the Glass
Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry, and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco, and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.
Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.
Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.