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Marco Merli's Tristo, ideal for unrepentant red lovers (even in summer)

by Claudio Celio

The arrival of spring and the first warm days of the year encourage consumers to enjoy refreshing whites, oftentimes fizzy or sparkling. Red wine bottles generally wind up neglected on store shelves or cooling off in home cellars throughout the hot season.

There are not many red wines that go with warmer temperatures; one might say they're the exception to the rule. Most times, they're characterized by a lean body, light color and distinctly fragrant bouquet.

I have recently chanced on one of these wines, and it was a true eureka moment for me. The wine in question hails from Umbria and despite the ominous name of the locality (the vineyards are not far from Perugia, in an area called Casa del Diavolo, “Devil's Abode”), is literally exquisite.

It's called Tristo and made by Marco Merli. Together with his father, the grower cultivates five hectares under vine, using absolutely natural techniques: fertilizations are rare and weeds are allowed to grow, without resorting to chemical herbicides.

In the winery, vinification rigorously employs indigenous yeasts and total yearly production – deliberately kept small and split into various labels, whites and reds – is around 10,000 bottles. Tristo is a carbonic maceration red (the same technique as Beaujolais in France) from Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot grapes.

“So far,” says Marco Merli, “red Tristo has been released in just three vintages (2013, 2014 and 2016), all three characterized by two signature traits: freshness and quaffability.”

The sneak preview of 2016 that I tasted last week confirmed this. Light ruby in color, the bouquet recalls fragrant red flowers and slightly unripe fruit like sour cherries. On the palate, the wine is gratifyingly scrumptious, bursting with aromas; it's hard to stop sipping, particularly if served cool. This is a truly ‘summery' red that lends itself to an amazing variety of pairings, from aperitif to fish dishes, particularly fish broth or stewed fish with tomatoes.