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Feudi del Pisciotto Valentino Merlot 2011
Enjoy with first courses and roasted red or white meats.
Located inside the triangle created by Piazza Almerina (known for its extraordinary and intact Roman villa), Caltagirone (famous for its ceramics) and Vittoria (famous for Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the only Sicilian DOCG), the vineyards of Feudi del Pisciotto dedicate half their vines to the red wine king of the island, Nero d’Avola, and half to international varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot, Semillon and Gewürztraminer. Inside the winery, Feudi del Pisciotto prides itself on combining history with high technology in the cellar in order to reach the highest levels of the Sicilian wine production.
Part of the Pisciotto reserve, famous for its beauty, the abundance of cork oaks and the presence of many other species of vegetation, Feudi del Pisciotto also enjoys relicts of its long history, including an extraordinary millstone that was once used by the ancient Romans to make wine.
A large, geographically and climatically diverse island off the toe of Italy, Sicily has long been recognized for its fortified Marsala wines. It is also home to red and white table wines that have been steadily increasing in quality and popularity over the past few decades, allowing Italy’s fourth largest wine-producing region to shed its former image as merely a supplier of bulk wine. Certainly, plenty of bulk wine is still made here, but those who look beyond that will find plenty of high-quality wines for every-day drinking as well as bottles from boutique producers who espouse thoughtful vineyard practices (the organic wine movement thrives here). Though most think of the climate here as simply hot and dry, there is some variation on the sun-drenched island, particularly at high elevation on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Although Sicily’s comeback began with clever labels and easily recognizable international varieties, its charm lies in its indigenous grapes. Nero d’Avola is the most widely planted red variety, responsible for full-bodied, berry fruited wines throughout the island. In Cerasuolo di Vittoria, it is blended with the lighter, more floral Frappato to create an elegantly balanced wine. On the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, many noteworthy wines are being produced in every color—whites from Cataratto and Carricante, and rosés from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. All of these wines share a racy streak of minerality and at their best can bear more than a slight resemblance to their respective Burgundies. Grillo and Inzolia, the grapes of Marsala, are used to produce generally simple, crisp dry whites. Pantelleria, a subtropical island belonging to the province of Sicily, specializes in Moscato di Pantelleria, made from the variety locally known as Zibibbo.
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.