“The vintners art begins with the toil of three professionals: the pruner, the harvester, and the winemaker”

How do you create a great Tuscan Merlot? Well, starting with the former winemaker of Chateau Latour as a consulting enologist is a pretty good way to begin. That’s what proprietor Alessandro Cellai did at Castellare and for the last 6 vintages, Christian Le Sommer has been advising the estate. Less is more? Not in this case. More like if one is good, two is better. Le Sommer comes aboard next to the famed Maurizio Castelli, creator of I Sodi San Niccolo, so it’s no wonder the wines from Castellare are improving at a break neck pace.

~ La Chiesa di Castellina in Chianti ~

Today’s wine is one to watch. All the cliches apply here. Put it on your radar, it opened my eyes, it turned my head. From the first taste I was attentive, captured and focused. A wine born in 2005, but only produced 5 times since. A wine from a young vineyard, whose vines are only 11 years old, but already producing intensely flavored fruit. Is this Tuscany’s next great Merlot? Maybe.

The 2011 Poggio Ai Merli is 100% Merlot. Not knowing what to expect, we decanted the wine for an hour before dinner. 2011 was a wonderful vintage in Central Tuscany and it shows in this wine.

Deep purple in the decanter and glass, the aromas of the wine are incredible. Crushed black plum, cocoa powder, mint, sage, and freshly turned earth are compelling and enrapturing. But that was just the beginning. On the palate the wine is velvety and succulent. The black fruit flavors glide effortlessly across your palate and form a velvet shield of tantalizing textures. Playful mint notes, dark chocolate and sweet tobacco join spice and cedar accents. This has a little bit of everything. Only moderately tannic but with refreshing acidity, this can be enjoyed now and was quite tasty even by itself. Served alongside orecchiette with broccoli rabe and ground lamb ragu it was wonderful.

Price seems to vary widely depending upon the vintage you’re seeking. For example, the 2007 can be purchased for about $40 while the subject of this review is closer to $75. That’s disappointing and hurts the value of the wine. However, in comparison to other Tuscan Merlot, this is a relative bargain. Shop around. 93 points. Disclosure: This bottle was an importer provided sample.

Photo of Tuscan Merlot Red Wine from Castellare di Castellina

~ Poggio ai Merli is vinified in stainless steel and aged 15-30 months in a combination of different sized French oak barrels, only 1/3 of which are new ~

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