A warming bowl of butternut squash risotto pairs with an unusual Merlot from an organic vineyard in Italy.
It's August and blistering hot.
It's probably not the ideal time of year to be roasting butternut squash, but there happened to be one on my kitchen counter since forever.
It's like January when you start out with good intentions, and then suddenly it's August and where did the year go?
Martin of the Enofylz wine blog has invited the Italian Food, Wine & Travel group to explore non-native grape varietals that grace Italy. These include well known grapes grown around the world such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
And isn't everyone's favorite grape Merlot?
Maybe you love the strong, oaky vibes found in a Bordeaux blend or a New World single varietal bottle.
Or maybe you hate it.
I don't hate it, but generally I like to try unique wines, and this bottle of 2018 Visintini Merlot fit the bill.
Fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged primarily in the bottle, I thought this wine would be more summer fresh than fall AND vegetarian friendly.
I also loved the story of the small family winery it came from.
A Centuries Old Tradition
Situated in the Friuli region of Italy, the Visinitini winery is just south of the DOC Friuli Colli Orientali and has been there since the late 19th century.
In 1884 Domenico Visintini bought the Castle of Gramogliano in 1884, and it has remained in his family generation after generation ever since.
In 1915, his son Umberto started farming on the land. In 1973, Umberto passed the land to his son Andrea who started growing grapes.
In 2002, Andrea passed the land on to his sons Oliviero, Cinzia and Palmiran who have continued the winemaking tradition of their father.
The Visintini philosophy is to "work the wine as less as possible. The family makes use only of pneumatic presses (for soft pressing), special equipment to check the fermentation (to maintain fragrance and scent) and static decantation which allows natural clearness, to obtaining typical, fresh, fruity and soft wines."
In addition, they viewed the transition to organic farming as a necessity rather than a luxury. "This ecological awareness is the prerequisite for the excellent quality of our grapes and implies more aroma, more pleasure, more good taste."
2018 Visintini Organic Merlot
100% Merlot, 13% ABV, $25
Made from organic grapes; fermented in stainless steel tanks
Visual: It looks almost inky, rich, unctuous, and dark cherry like.
Aroma: Welch’s grape juice! Fresh dark berries with some flint, pencil shaving.
Taste: ACID! Did the lack of oak barrels heighten the acidity in this wine? It has much more pucker than expected, and it needs food. And TANNIN! Don't hold back. Kind of like sour blackberries with a firm grip.
Pairing: Does this wine suit a vegetarian pairing? I thought it would because it was fermented in stainless steel instead of oak barrels.
Interestingly, the winery recommends pairing this wine with gnocchi or pasta with meat sauce, game, grilled beef
and pork, rabbit or duck.
Did I read these notes prior to my pairing?
[Cue: Walk of Shame]
My butternut squash risotto was so creamy, spinachy, and savory. It heightened the acidity in the wine rather than counterbalancing it so much.
I just wasn't expecting such a big wine from Northern Italy! I thought it might be thin, chillable, and porch pounder material.
Maybe it needs a big hunk of meat. Maybe.
The Last Drop
- The next time you want to pair something with a wine that has a technical sheet with a recommended pairing, read the tech sheet first! 🙂
- Be nice to Merlot
Italian Non-Native Varietals
To learn more about the non-native grape varietals grown in Italy, check out these posts from the Italian Food, Wine & Travel writers:
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be whipping up Deviled Eggs and a Chardonnay from Alto Adige
- Lynn of Savor the Harvest will be sharing The ‘Other’ Wine Grapes in Italy
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass will be offering us Trentino: Another option for Pinot Noir fans
- Jennifer of Vino Travels – An Italian Wine Blog will be presenting Blending the Non-Native Grapes of Puglia with the Trentatre Rosso
- Susannah of Avvinare will be contributing Oltrepo’ Pavese – Pinot Noir Reaches New Heights
- Deanna of Wineivore will be dishing up Butternut Squash Risotto Paired with Organic Merlot“
- Gwendolyn of the Wine Predator will be exploring Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc: Ivaldi’s Andrea Alta Langa DOCG #ItalianFWT
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm wonders An Italian Merlot? Sì, Grazie
- I’ll be sharing Mussels With Garlic and Parsley Paired with Cantina Terlan Kreuth Chardonnay