There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.
America's favorite red wine passion, Merlot is known for its role, sometimes as the primary varietal, in the great wines of Bordeaux. It is, by nature, an earlier maturing grape than Cabernet Sauvignon, and tends to have rounder, plummier, more forward fruit with lower tannins so it is often used to soften and round out the edges of the more astringent Cabernet. It is the grape of choice in Pomerol and St. Emilion, and represents the basis for some of America's most popular red wines, particularly from Washington, Napa Valley, Sonoma Country, the Central Coast, Long Island, Texas, and yes, Colorado.