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Flat front label of wine

Portillo Merlot 2002

Merlot from Argentina
    0% ABV
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    Winemaker Notes

    Abundant in ripe red fruit and spices, the richly defined flavors of this wine reveal the potential of Merlot from Argentina's Alto Valle de Uco. Firm tannins and great body complete the experience.

    Critical Acclaim

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    Portillo

    Portillo

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    Portillo, Argentina
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    At Portillo, freshly harvested grapes are received at the first level of the facility. After selection, the fruit is transferred by gravity to the level below, where fermentation takes place. The resulting juice is then transferred, again by gravity, to a third level for aging. Framed by the snow-capped Andes, Portillo’s vineyards range in altitude from 3,445 to 5,577 feet. The benefits of this high location are many, including greater thermal fluctuations between day and night temperatures. This leads to longer hang-times for the grapes, resulting in a superior balance between sugars and acidity and thicker skins in the red varieties, which in turn yields greater intensity of color and aroma. This microclimate offers a supremely healthy environment in which to grow grapes.

    The Spanish conquistadors, who introduced vines to Mendoza as far back as the 1500s, referred to the region as the "Tierra del sol y del buen vino," (land of sun and good wine). With its profound affinity with the land, Portillo and the wines it produces are an authentic expression of their origin and terroir.

    The Portillo winery (Portillo means “portal” or “gateway”) is largely built of local materials, including stones quarried from a nearby valley. This enables the facility to blend in tastefully with the surrounding environment. Ancient masonry techniques practiced by the indigenous population in bygone times were revived for its construction in the late 1990s, providing new and welcome opportunities for skilled local craftsmen.

    Argentina

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    Stretching from the Andes to Patagonia, Argentina's unique terroir lends to high quality wines. Formerly associated with inexpensive bulk wine but dramatically shifting focus from quantity to quality, Argentina is the most important wine-producing country in South America. Certainly excellent values abound here still, but increases in vineyard investment, improved winery technology, and a commitment to innovation since the late 20th century have 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 can be used to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.

    Mendoza, a large and famous region responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. 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. 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.

    Perfect Pairings

    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.

    Sommelier Secret

    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.

    SWS08534_2002 Item# 74692