Merlot and Sangiovese, one is the most famous grape variety in Bordeaux, the other the most famous in Tuscany. Both can produce large quantities of grapes but also, with the right skills and reducing production per hectare, very high quality wines. Initially considered second-class vines, the situation is now very different for Merlot and Sangiovese. It can be safely said that both have what it takes to produce some of the best wines in the world.
Merlot is the most widespread grape variety in France, there are very few wine-growing areas in the world where it is not present. This great diffusion is due to various factors including its excellent adaptability to both hot and cool climates, to the charm it evokes (it is one of the symbolic vines of Bordeaux) and to the fact that it is suitable both for those who want to make quantities and for those who want to focus on quality. The first source referring to Merlot dates back to 1783 with the name ‘Merlau’ in Gironde (South-West France), while the name of the vine ‘Merlot’ appeared more recently (1824) in a treatise on Médoc wines.
The origin of the name of the vine is curious, which derives from the blackbird, a bird that particularly likes its grapes.
For a long time it lived in the shadow of its older brother, Cabernet Sauvignon and if initially it was planted in the Medoc only to be mixed with the latter with the idea of lightening it, already in the 80s things began to change and nowadays Merlot is found in many of the best wines. Merlot tends to produce a lot but (needless to say) the greatest winemakers always recommend reducing production to around 40/50 quintals per hectare to obtain maximum quality. A great subject of discussion is its harvest date: the vine is relatively early and the harvest date becomes, to say the least, fundamental for having a great product (a characteristic shared with Sangiovese). Many discussions also focus on what the reference model should be: should it be more similar to Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon? We think that Merlot should be more elegant than structured and this is also why we tend to harvest it “early” (usually the last week of August/first of September) even if there is no rigid rule since each vintage is always a separate story. The winery currently has around 1.3 hectares of Merlot, a more “recent” part (23 years) and an older part (30-35 years).
Sangiovese can be defined the main grape variety of Tuscany and central Italy. A vine with an ancient history, some studies claim that the origin of this variety dates back to the Etruscans. Sangiovese is a vine with an anomalous behavior compared to other varieties: it produces a lot and produces enormous bunches (thinning becomes fundamental here), it ripens early but it is harvested late. Work in the vineyard must be obsessive and choosing the right day to harvest becomes vital , under penalty of the risk of harvesting too early and having an herbaceous wine or harvesting overripe grapes. Furthermore, a noteworthy Sangiovese has a high acidity and a high quantity of tannins, which is why in our opinion it gives its best in oak barrels. Our Sangiovese, which my father called Vignavento, ages from 30 to 38 months in small wood, managing to maintain a certain elegance and obtains a consistency and structure that is not intrusive, but well blended with everything. There is also a lot of discussion about how long it should stay on the skins during alcoholic fermentation (some say 4 weeks and others 10/14 days). We personally, remembering that sometimes it depends on the vintage, tend not to keep too much on the skins since the grapes that are harvested have an acidity and tannin that alone are sufficient for a great pure Sangiovese aged in small wood.