2018 Cotarella “Sodale” Merlot Lazio IGP, Lazio, Italy (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Vintages March 28th release $30.95 (750ml bottle)
Releasing through Vintages on March the 18th of this year comes this little brother to the famed Cotarella “Montiano”, probably the most lauded Merlot in all of Italy.
The Cotarella family have been making Merlot from the sedimentary rock, clay and limestone soils of this region since 2015. This particular wine’s grapes are hand harvested and then macerated on their skins for just under two weeks with continuous delicate punch-downs. The wine goes through its alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel before being moved to barrels to complete the malolactic ferment.
The wine is aged for nine months in barrel, a combination of both new and used oak, before a further year in bottle before release. The resultant wine is a elegant and polished take on this often misunderstood variety. If you are one of those who find the Merlot grape to so often make for clumsy, chunky, childlike wines, you’ll be delightfully surprised by this sophisticated bottling.
I found the nose incredibly appealing but rather reserved at first. I found that the wine really opened up after around 15 minutes in the glass, bringing subtle aromatics of wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, ripe blackcurrant, and a hint of rolling tobacco, chocolate, and warm wood spice. The pleasantly medium-bodied palate is really quite something, with ripe, firm but sleek tannins, pronounced but well-balanced acidity, and a red/black fruit vibrancy that culminates in a reserved graphite/mineral finish.
I find this to be a beautifully restrained wine, well-crafted and harmonious in every which way. With the excellent structure it has, I’d like to pair with with the region’s most famous street food, the Porchetta di Ariccia, but perhaps with an elevated version befitting this level of modern, polished wine.
(Four out of a possible five apples)