Tilia Merlot 2011
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Made at Bodegas Esmeralda, Tilia has been handcrafted to demonstrate true varietal character. The brand is named after the Tilia (Linden) tree commonly found throughout Argentina’s wine country. Vineyard workers often make tea from the flowers of this tree and enjoy time sitting in the shade after a hard day’s work. These wines are a tribute to those workers and to the Argentinean way of living life to the fullest, enjoying every moment and relaxing in the natural environment the land provides. These inviting selections are approachable, affordable and filled with layers of flavor. Tilia wines offer a unique combination of fruit sourced from the traditional Eastern region and the dynamic Southern region of Mendoza. The Eastern region is one of the oldest and most recognized viticultural regions in Mendoza. It enjoys warm, sunny days and cool, desert nights. The fruit from this area offers ripe flavors and excellent mid-palate depth and concentration. The Southern region is considered to be one of the most premier growing areas in Mendoza. At 4,000 feet above sea level, the higher elevation offers much lower temperatures. This allows for more aromatic intensity and higher levels of natural acid creating freshness and balance in the wines. Grapes from this region have very intense aromas and bring a fresh characteristic to the wines. In addition to these general regions, Tilia’s Torrontes grapes are sourced from Cafayate, Salta in the Northwestern region. Alejandro Viggiani is the winemaker and viticulturalist in charge of Tilia. Viggiani graduated with honors from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza with a degree in agricultural engineering. Continuing his education, he attended the viticulture and winemaking master’s program jointly held by the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo and the prestigious Eccie National Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier, where he specialized in vine physiology. Tilia wines are aged in French and American oak, as well as stainless steel, and are allowed some time in bottle prior to release. They are produced in an approachable style using sustainably farmed grapes.
By far the largest and best-known winemaking province in Argentina, Mendoza is responsible for over 70% of the country’s enological output. Set in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Mendoza, divided into several distinctive sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, is the source of some of the country’s finest wines.
For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec. Originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s, here it found success and renown that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza's main white varieties include Chardonnay, Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot can be made into a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the best wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol where it is blended with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly from California’s Napa Valley.
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.