Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in France’s Bordeaux region, although it is eclipsed in stature by cabernet sauvignon, the grape with which it is routinely blended. In recent years, Merlot has enjoyed an explosion in popularity, especially in the United States, South America, Italy and Australia. In California, plantings have risen from 4,000 acres in 1988 to over 50,000 today.
A thin-skinned variety, merlot ripens earlier in the season then cabernet sauvignon and is less hardy, prone to a variety of ailments from shatter (the loss of potential fruit during flowering of the vine) to rot and mildew. It is more adaptable to cool climates than cabernet sauvignon, but similarly prefers a relatively warm growing environment.
Merlot’s popularity is due to the fact that it is softer, fruitier, and earlier-maturing than cabernet sauvignon, yet displays many of the same aromas and flavours – black cherry, currant, cedar, and green olive – along with mint, tobacco and tea-leaf tones. Like cabernet, merlot is a good accompaniment to simply prepared beef and lamb dishes.
Cusumano’s wines come from premium sites all over Sicily, and are produced at the Partinico (straight west of Palermo) based family winery by third generation winemakers and brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano. They craft wines of the ‘new’ Sicily typified by outstanding varietal expression, rich flavours, and a sensuality that could only be born under the Sicilian sun. Wine insiders have long predicted that Sicily would one day become Europe’s dominant wine region. The sheer number of prime vineyard sites available, the diversity of microclimates and soils throughout the island, make it possible for Sicilian winemakers to work not only with exciting native varietals, but also with many international grapes. Cusumano is the pre-eminent producer turning that prediction into reality.