If you know me or follow this blog regularly, you know that I am not a big fan of Merlot. Most Merlots on the market today strike me as being green and thin--products of overcropped vines and over-zealous winemakers. I know, of course, that Chateau Petrus (arguably the world's finest wine) is 100% Merlot, and I have been entranced by Petrus every time I have had an opportunity to taste it.
This 2002 Traverso Sottocastello, from the same domaine in northern Italy that produced the Ornella Molon Prosecco below, is also 100% Merlot, and it swept away all of my negative stereotypes. It's a beautiful deep red color with a glorious nose of dark cherries, black raspberries, coffee, chocolate, spice and a pleasant hint of tobacco. On the palate, it's silky smooth with ripe tannins and exotic flavors. There is only a hint of the greenery that is part of the Merlot flavor profile and a much heftier dose of dark cherries and Oriental spices. The finish is long and luxurious right now, but I'm sure this wine will improve for at least a decade. At $46, this wine seems expensive for an Italian Merlot, but if you've got the money, it's worth every penny.