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Ronchi di Manzano, Friuli Colli Orientali MerlotFriuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy 2018 (750mL)

From the Wine Shop

Ronchi di Manzano, Friuli Colli Orientali Merlot Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy 2018 (750mL)

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“Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is one of Merlot’s spiritual homes, and Roberta Borghese of Ronchi di Manzano is well-known for her luscious, modern expressions of the variety.”

The Borghese family has owned Ronchi di Manzano (“Hills of Manzano”) since 1969, with 60 hectares of vines spread across the areas of Manzano, their home village, and Rosazzo, arguably the most prestigious red wine terroir in Friuli. Like most Friulian producers, they make a wide range of “varietal” wines (one of the few Italian regions to include grape names on labels), both white and red, and while local grapes like Refosco have grown in recognition, their bread and butter on the red side is Merlot (which in Friuli often gets pronounced with a hard ‘t’ at the end, i.e. mer-LOTE) and the other “Bordeaux” varieties, which have a long history in northeastern Italy. Despite its unparalleled array of unique native cultivars, Italy nevertheless counts both Merlot and Chardonnay among its top 10 most-planted varieties. That may come as a surprise to some, and it’s important to note that Merlot isn’t some recent, trend-driven phenomenon here: It likely first arrived during Napoleon’s campaigns in northern Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1815). Many Italian producers, especially those in the northeast, consider it an “indigenous” variety, and it remains the most-planted red grape in Friuli.

Borghese, now assisted by her two daughters, Lisa and Nicole, is one of the first producers I think of when the subject is Friulian red wine. The Ronchi di Manzano wines are labeled with the “Friuli Colli Orientali,” or “Eastern Hills of Friuli” DOC, an appellation right near Italy’s border with Slovenia, with hillside vineyards positioned at a near-exact midpoint between the Julian Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The push-pull of mountain- and sea-borne air flows helps moderate the climate and allow for a long, even growing season, while the local soil, known as ponka, combines clay/limestone marl and sandstone.

This glossy, voluptuous 2018, which aged 12 months in French oak barrels of various sizes, is a far cry from the “lean and green” styles of Merlot some Italian old-timers may associate with the region. And, despite its deep concentration, also displays good freshness and energy. There are Bordeaux-like hints of damp soil and tobacco, but lots of ripe, glossy black and red fruit. Notes of black cherry, plum, pomegranate molasses, vanilla, and violets are delivered in a silk blanket of tannins. 

  • CountryItaly
  • RegionFriuli-Venezia Giulia
  • Sub-RegionFriuli Colli Orientali
  • SoilMarl & Sandstone
  • BlendMerlot
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakFrench Barrels, Various Sizes
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareLarge Bordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2024
  • PairingCotechino con Lenticchie

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