Ticino's wine-growing history goes back to antiquity, but really came into its own around the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, immediately after the destruction of the European vineyards by the minute «filossera» insect. Around 1907 the first experiments were made with French Merlot wines from Bordeaux. Since then, Merlot has become the most cultivated wine in Ticino.
It is thought that the name «Merlot» comes from the blackbird («merlo» in Italian) because of the similarity of the ripe grape to the colour of the bird?s feathers; another theory is that the Merlot is one of the first grapes to ripen and therefore the first that the blackbird eats. The bunches of grapes reach maturation towards the end of September and are round, medium-sized grapes with blue-black coloured skins. The wine from these grapes is evenly balanced, of a rather intense ruby-red colour and has a good body with an elegant tinge of ivy. The taste is dry, with a pleasant bitterish depth to its aftertaste.
Thanks to its makeup, Merlot is ideal as an accompaniment for minestrone, grilled meats, main courses in general and matured, but not sharp, cheeses. It is well suited for maturation in small oak barrels and can be left to age for 4 to 6 years. It should be served at a temperature of 16° to 18° C, in large glasses.
Ticino has two distinctive types of soils which are geographically divided between the Sopraceneri and the Sottoceneri, and which give their character to the wines produced in the various areas. Throughout the Ticino the following wines are cultivated in order of importance: Merlot (83%), Americana red, Chardonnay, Bondola, Pinot Noir. 8% is divided between some 20 wines, including both red and white grapes. In 1997, the Merlot of the Ticino obtained the D.O.C., the control of origin appellation, a symbol of recognition of production and quality.