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Felipe Rutini Merlot 2000
Tasting Notes A modern-styled wine with pretty aromas of violet and herbs du provence , this Merlot has an elegant structure and tons of ripe, blackcherry furit. The elements of French oak, sweet tannins and rich fruit are in harmony here and will continue to meld into each other making this Merlot one with longevity and highly drinkable mass appeal.
Don Felipe sent his six children to study in Italy. The new generation brought back to Argentina the European concept of ‘terroir’. They set out to find the best sites for vine cultivation in Mendoza. In 1925, the Rutinis planted their first vines in Tupungato. But it wasn't until the 80’s and 90’s that the Tupungato Valley would become the "Napa Valley" of Mendoza, with every Argentine and foreign winery investing in Argentina trying to buy land there for vineyards.
For decades, the wines of La Rural have been harbingers of quality in Argentina. Six years ago, Nicolás Catena, the pioneering owner of Bodegas Esmeralda, became a partner at La Rural with Don Rodolfo Reina Rutini, the grandson of Don Felipe Rutini. The winery has undergone substantial modernization and the vineyards have benefited from Catena's outstanding vineyard management team. The goal, as with every other Nicolás Catena project: to produce world-class wines that can stand with the best of the world.
With vineyards tretching along the eastern side of the Andes Mountains from Patagonia in the south to Salta in the north, Argentina is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic wine producing countries—and most important in South America.
Since the late 20th century vineyard investments, improved winery technology and a commitment to innovation have all contributed to the country’s burgeoning image as a producer of great wines at all price points. The climate here is diverse but generally continental and agreeable, with hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters—a positive, as snow melt from the Andes Mountains is used heavily to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.
Argentina’s famous Mendoza region, responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, with Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley most noteworthy. Red wines dominate here, especially Malbec, the country’s star variety, while Chardonnay is the most successful white.
The province of San Juan is best known for blends of Bonarda and Syrah. Torrontés is a specialty of the La Rioja and Salta regions, the latter of which is also responsible for excellent Malbecs grown at very high elevation.
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. But the grape also has enough stuffing to make serious, world-renowned wines. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, 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 with Cabernet Franc.