Merloblu, Castello di Luzzano, Lombardy

6 May 2003 by JR

This racy red is a steal, but one available only in the UK, I'm afraid. British importer Richards Walford snapped up every drop of this wine, which used to be sent to the local coop.

Castello di Luzzano is in Rovescala about 40 miles due south of Milan on the eastern limit of the Oltrepo' Pavese zone. What I loved about this particular wine was its verve. There's no questioning that it's Italian with its attractive, very slightly bitter, ultra-digestible finish. But nor is there any doubt that it's Merlot with its gloss and plummy fruit. Based on the 2001 vintage and cleverly packaged, it is still vibrant and quite a bargain.

Lombardy is a region that is rather overlooked by wine lovers who tend to associate it mainly with the local sparkling wine industry but I often find its reds from the lower-altitude reaches from grapes such as Bonarda and Croatina have lovely balance.

Arguably the region's most distinctive red is Valtellina, made on an extraordinary, south-facing cliff of vineyards just south of the Swiss border. Nebbiolo, known here as Chiavennasca, is the grape responsible but has much more obvious country warmth than when grown in Piedmont. Both Triacca and Conti Sertoli Salis made excellent Sforzato (dried grape) versions of Valtellina in 2000, a particularly good vintage for the zone.

The much less ambitious, but admirably delicious, Merloblu sells for about £6 a bottle from Bacchus Fine Wines (tel 01234 711140); Cambridge Wine Merchants; Prestige Vintners of Barnstaple (tel 01271 3431150); 07/05/03

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