Yes, you read that correctly: Merlot.
This particular wine is one my favorite party tricks. Cantina Terlan Siebeneich Merlot Riserva is a pedigreed gem that suggests little of the uninspired varietal that one usually associates with Merlot. Perhaps I'm perverse, but there's something utterly delightful in being proven wrong about the basic tenets one holds true when it comes to wine.
This notable Merlot smells faintly of marjoram, and tastes of concentrated plums and red currants that meld together into something entirely pleasant. The vines are grown in clay and sandy soil 800 feet above sea level, producing a wine with a seemingly higher alcohol content than its 13% .
The Kellerei Cantina Terlano cooperative has been lauded for exemplary permutations of classic and lesser-know varietals, and has received several Tre Bicchieri awards from the Gambero Rosso guide. One of the things that always throws me right off is the non-Italianate names of the vintners and wines from the Trentino Alto-Adige region, owing to the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland - the Italian we all know ends in a lilting vowel and most certainly doesn't contain umlauts.
That Terlan's Merlot also happens to be a ridiculous bargain at Astor Wines is simply a bonus. With such a high value-to-tastiness ratio, a bulk purchase doesn't require a second invitation. The Nova Clutch cellars have bottle of Terlano's Porphyr Lagrein awaiting one inevitable last cold spell, and their Sauvignon Winkl is on the wishlist for a summer roof-deck meal of softshell crabs and grilled asparagus.
Wine: 2002 Cantina Terlano Siebeneich Merlot Riserva, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Varietal: 100% Merlot
Recommended Pairings: Pork dishes, sausage of any sort, pasta Bolognese, Pecorino Romano.