If Merlino, Mario Pojer’s fortified wine, were a person it would be a young male, heir of important ancestors and brother of such well known wines as Port, Malaga, Marsala, Madeira, Banyuls, who travelled the world and made history. For these reasons and thanks to its great structure Merlino will enjoy life and will become centenary.
Merlino is a ‘Pojer & Sandri’ wine estate creation. It is made from a local grape variety called Lagrain and fortified by “Divino” – their own production brandy, distilled from other two local grape varieties, Schiava and Lagarino. This is the first product of this type made in Italy.
Merlino was born after visiting two great brandy-producing regions of Armagnac and Cognac in France, when Pojer e Sandri embarked on a brandy “project” in 1986. They started the distillation of Schiava grapes from Faedo and Lagarino grapes from the Cembra Valley with the intention of aging the brandy for 10 years in French oak. The first years’ brandy, called “Divino” was distilled in 1986 and finally released in 1997. This has become a much sought-after, limited production spirit.
Regarding to its sensory profile Merlino has an intense violet colour. The fragrance is that of wild cherries, black currants, blackberry with spice notes, coffee, cacao, vanilla. The flavour is potent and sweet, with good structure and harmony. It pairs perfectly with chocolate.
As regards the vinification, Lagrain grapes are harvested at the optimum level of maturity, typically having a potential alcohol level of 13.5%. The fruit is then refrigerated for 1 to 2 days, allowing them to begin the cold maceration of 5 to 6 days and the fermentation.
The fermentation is then arrested with the addition of “Divino” – their special brandy matured in wood for more than 10 years.
This fortification takes places when they’re pumping the juice back over the skins in the tank and the “cold” brandy – it is a more gentle process and retains greater aromas in the resulting product. As the alcohol level reaches 20 degrees, the yeast die leaving Merlino with 100 to 120 grams per litre of sugar. A few days later, Merlino is transferred into the same barrels which had been used to mature the “Divino” brandy and it’s bottled after 8 to 10 months.
Let’s listen to Mario Pojer…
Pojer & Sandri company dates back to 1975, when the young man Fiorentino Sandri inherited a parcel of vineyards in the alpine village of Faedo. There, with his friend winemaker Mario Pojer, who had just received his diploma from the San Michele Agricultural Institute, he formed the strong partnership which is now in its fourth decade.
Their goal, in this unexplored (at that time, ed) viticultural area between the Adige river and Cembra Valley was simple but ambitious: to prove that with care and skill, they could, contrary to popularly-held beliefs, demonstrate this Faedo area and environs were capable of producing world-class wines.
Their first release was a Müller-Thurgau, followed by the indigenous Trentino “Nosiola” white wine along with a Chardonnay, then the company grew and vineyard expansion began. Six new vineyard sites were purchased in Faedo and nearby San Michele all’Adige along with parcels in the Cembra Valley. At present red varieties (Cabernet, Merlot and Lagrein) are typically cultivated near San Michele, down the hill from Faedo. Higher up the hill, they cultivate Nosiola, Traminer, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Nero. Above Faedo, in a locality called “Palai,” at 700 meters ASL (2300 feet), they cultivate Müller-Thurgau. They also make a small production of sparkling wine from the classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Besides the broad spectrum of wines, Pojer & Sandri distillery produces some remarkable fine artisan grappas and a wide range of spirits, acquaviti and brandy. Their philosophy is based upon quality and locally sourced products: they believe in using orchards and farms close to the winery for fruits such quince, blackcurrants, plums, rowan berries (sorbo), blackberries, cherries, etc. They especially prize the aroma of these raw materials for their spirits.