Merlot has a long history in this part of Friuli, and the variety can take on an incredibly distinctive, satisfying character in the right hands—tasting nothing like its distant cousins in the Medoc, nor like any of the multitude of more varietally marked New World iterations. Zidarich’s “Ruje” combines 80% Merlot and 20% Teran, and it is aged for four years in a combination of large botti and smaller barrels (all of which are well-used)—then for another two full years before it hits the market. The 2010 was fascinating, with an intoxicating nose of savory spice, dried tobacco, dark fruits, and smoke. The still-energetic palate is supple and long, with a coiled mineral presence that rears its head from beneath the web of secondary complexity. As evidenced by a vertical Benjamin opened for us, this wine can go far longer in bottle as well.