Never mind the movie Sideways. I'm simply not much of a merlot drinker simply because most merlot is lousy. Whether it's herbal or overoaked or simply boring, merlot seems to be among the most abused grape varieties out there. Yes, great wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion on the right bank of Bordeaux mostly come from merlot. Even there you'll find plenty of bad merlot.
So imagine my surprise last year when I tasted 1999 E. Vallania Vignetto della Terre Rosse Petroso at Liner & Elsen in Portland. The referred to it in their May 2007 newsletter as a Pomerol-like blend of 87% merlot and 13% cabernet sauvignon, and it's true. Perhaps the only complaint with this wine is that it didn't exactly taste "Italian," though it comes from the Emilia-Romagna region.
L&E's description of the Petroso is right on. Lots of plums, bitter chocolate and graphite, with terrific richness, resolving tannin and still bright acidity that carries the rich flavors. So much ripe new world merlot fails the taste test because of acidity. The flavors might be there, if they are buried in new oak. It's just that you need a glass of water to rinse your mouth after each sip because there's nothing in the wine to refresh the palate. The Petroso is alive with acidity, but so dark and rich with a youthful black ruby color even at nine years old.
We paired this wine with homemade pizza with porcini mushroom, sweet Walla Walla onions, minced garlic, and finished with chopped parsley. What a delicious pairing on a summer evening in the backyard. Read more about this wine and producer if you like. This wine isn't available locally anymore I don't believe, but other bottlings and other vintages surely are. Check them out.