an “homage to the Merlot gods" ... “the most impressive” of 2012’s “fine reds”
Since the 1970s, Christian Moueix’s Petrus has reigned as the undisputed king of Merlot. Next in line would be Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s “Masseto,” made by the brilliant and renowned winemaker Axel Heinz. But in 2012, both were outpointed by Cinzia Merli’s world-class “Messorio.”
Merli’s winery, Le Macchiole, was one of the first established in Bolgheri along the Etruscan Coast in Tuscany. It was acquired in 1982 from a family that co-owned the land with the Antinoris. The renowned oenologist Luca d’Attoma was hired in 1991, and as he focused on single-varietal wines and micro-vinification techniques, he also replanted vines to new rootstocks at higher vine densities — all factors that raised quality levels and earned the attention of critics.
We first read about Le Macchiole’s “Messorio” when Parker gave 96 points to the 1995 vintage, along with advance warning to Merlot producers around the world: “This is a brilliant effort, rivaling the finest made not only in Italy, but also in France and the United States.”
If any wine can unseat Petrus one day, it will be either Ornellaia’s “Masseto” or Le Macchiole’s “Messorio.” Perhaps “one day” arrived in 2012, an uneven vintage throughout France and Italy, when “Messorio” knocked Petrus off of Parker's throne.
Wine Spectator reported that a number of “fine reds” were produced in 2012 in Italy, but called Messorio “the most impressive” and an “homage to the Merlot gods.”
A drought year in Italy, 2012 started out with elevated temperatures. “All the vineyard work was aimed at protecting the vines’ vegetative cycle … to allow the vines the deal with the summer’s heat wave,” Cinzia Merli told Wine Spectator. “This proved to be successful.”
Cleansing winds and mild rain showers arrived mid-season to help vines recover their strength all along the Tuscan coast. Temperatures tapered off through the late summer months, and fruit was able to ripen at an even pace.
The 2012 Le Macchiole “Messorio” scored 97 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. 100% Merlot aged 18 months in 75% new and 25% used oak barrels. Deep ruby with garnet hues. Lavish aromas of crushed violets, black cherry, and cassis, tinged with sweet baking spice. A voluptuous mouthfeel with deeply concentrated red-berry fruit, and assertive yet silky fine-grained tannins. The Advocate called it a “drop-dead gorgeous wine” that “feels like silk sheets against the palate” and “reflects beautifully on the magnificence of Merlot in Coastal Tuscany.”
If you want the best Merlot of 2012, you could drop $2,000 and enjoy Petrus, which Parker rated 96+. Or 95-point Masseto, for just $600. Or, only on WineAccess today, the 97-point Messorio at $175/bottle.
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