Source: Katie Pizzuto Gonzo Gastronomy
“So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine…”
I have just finished one of the most memorable wines I have had in a long time and what completely shocked the shit out of me was that it was a merlot. Right now you are either rolling your eyes at me for being a merlot basher or nodding your head in empathy. I don’t hate merlot—I hate mass-made, spineless merlot, which is unfortunately what lines most of our store shelves nowadays. When Miles stood outside, declaring to Jack, “No, if anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!” I laughed my ass off because he gave voice to the little merlot-shunning demon inside of me. But when I stood inside a local wineshop this past weekend talking to the owner, we got on the subject of earthy wines. You see, I LOVE funk. I love the earthy, mushroomy, barnyard character you find in certain red wines and I was on the hunt. When I asked what he recommended, he pointed to the Italian section and said, “That merlot right there.”
“Merlot? Are you serious?”
“Yeah, it’s from Friuli…a nice cold pocket for the grape. It’s all about the funk, I swear.”
At about 14 bones, I was willing to trust the guy, so I bought a bottle (along with 2 others, cuz self control is something I’m not readily working on). The next night, I cracked it open while making dinner and gave it a whiff. Plenty of black plum and red berries, but the funk was definitely in the house. The scent immediately brought a smile to my face. The guy knew what he was talking about! I spent the rest of the evening completely enthralled by a bottle of merlot, and believe me when I tell you, I didn’t think that sentence would ever spill from my lips. I finished the second half of the bottle last night, and I’m thinking it might have been even better the second night if that’s at all possible. Knowing what I know now, I’m running back to the shop this weekend and buying a case of this wine to keep around. OK, Katie, so WHAT THE HELL WAS THE WINE?!?!? Fantinel Celebrate Life Merlot 2007.
I was so taken by the wine that it took me a couple of hours to finally look at the label and read it through. Apparently, the Fantinel family donates $1 to fighting world hunger and malnutrition for every bottle of wine sold in the US. So not only was this winery generous and globally conscious, but it single-handedly restored my faith in merlot. Let me repeat—single-handedly restored my faith in merlot. I am eternally grateful to both the shop owner for knowing enough about his wines to point me in the right direction, and to the winemaker for crafting a bottle of funky goodness that reminded me of merlot’s potentials. I am also eternally grateful because it reminded me of two things that you should also remember: 1. Never hold on to your silly “varietal prejudices.” Don’t walk around like a pompous dolt, declaring your detest of cabernet or sauv. blanc or riesling, because I promise you that you will miss out on some seriously great wine at some point. I would NEVER have given that bottle of merlot a second glance and it would’ve clearly been my loss. 2. Talk to the people in the shop. I don’t care how much you think you know about wine—they’re inevitably gonna know more than you about what they stock. Trust them. If it sucks, bring it back and tell them so. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.