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Wine Reviews: La Planeta Merlot 1997
by: Vino Joe (e-mail
Pg 1 of 1

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La Planeta Merlot 1997 is one of Vino Joe's Favorite Wines!

Those who claim "I like Merlot" probably are talking about the crappy overoaked wine from California that sells for about six bucks a bottle and is served in any number of chain restaurants around the USA. This wine is from Sicily, and is easily the best Merlot I've ever had. For years, Sicily received a bad (and well-deserved) rap for growing too many grapes and exporting the resulting cheap juice to places like France and (surprise!) California. In the last 20 or so years, however, the region has undergone a renaissance as expert winemakers have been pulling out rootstocks and reconstructing wineries with the goal of making outstanding wine. And it makes a lot of sense; Sicily has a very long, very hot growing season, appropriate soil, and almost never has an off year. La Planeta is one of the pioneers of this renaissance, and their Merlot is spectacular. 

Interestingly, I was first given this wine "blind" (I didn't see the label, a friend gave me a glass and asked me to guess what it was). With its complex nose of earth, ripe fruit (black and red berries), tobacco, vanilla spice and leather, I swore it was a Cabernet. Wrong. Taste it yourself -- if you can find a bottle -- and you'll smell what I mean. 

The same complexity comes forth on the palate. Upfront, a silky texture greets you and the black fruit teases you. Then a mound of fruit, spice and earthy flavors attack your taste buds like pit bulls -- the flavors keep coming and coming. The fruit is so rich and ripe you almost don't notice that there is ample acidity and firm tannins. The finish lasts at least five minutes. Clearly one of the most interesting and tasty red wines I've ever had.

It can be difficult to find, as not much is made. However, the same winery (La Planeta) makes a very good, "everyday" red called La Planeta Segreto Rosso that's much easier to locate (and easy on the wallet as well).

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