When Candace and Ferenc Mate decided to purchase and restore a 13th century friary in the hills of southwest Montalcino I doubt even they realized the escapade they were in for.  The thrills, fear and even hilarity that ensued during the project are almost unbelievable.  Chronicled brilliantly in Ferenc Mate’s memoir “A Vineyard in Tuscany”,  Ference Mate brings the adventure to life for the reader.  I can’t recommend the book enough and as I turned page upon page,  I was compelled to grab a few crumbles of parmigiano and uncork a bottle of today’s subject wine.  

The 2010 Mate Merlot “Mantus”  is a mono-varietal gem from a tiny 2.5 acre vineyard high up on the Mate estate.  At almost 1,100 feet in elevation, only their Syrah vineyard is higher.  With perfect southwest exposure, the vineyard benefits from ideal location and the soil, a mixture of sand and clay, is the perfect environment for Merlot.  

The wine was not decanted, but opened as I finished reading – about a full hour prior to dinner. It is a deep ruby to purple color, almost opaque with only the slightest trend of lightening at the rim of the bowl.  The aromas are simply wonderful.  Pure and wonderful.  Minerals, black plums, mountain herbs, spices and toast are plentiful and seductive.  On the palate, this wine portrays a large framed structure with lots of ripe, chewy tannins that surprise slightly.  The large core of wild black plum fruit is delicious and juicy and allows the accents from mineral, new leather, fresh herbs to play an accompanying role.  This is more mineral and structure driven than say the pure plushness of something like Galatrona – but what I love about this wine is its unique sense of place and its scale.  Not for the faint of heart.  I’m inclined to cellar this a few years more to shed some of those tannins.  With the meal,  grilled skirt steak and broccoli rabe  with white beans, it was superb. On it’s own, still a bit too assertive.  93 points and a very nice value around $30-$35. 

~ The Mate Merlot is hand harvested in early September and then aged 18 months in French barrique followed by bottle refinement of 6-8 months before release ~


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