Merlot….The Pontiff to the church of right bank Bordeaux. Think St Emilion, think Pomerol. Think Cheval Blanc. Think Petrus. Here in Australia, there’s not as many top flight producers, which is a shame…when it’s done right, Merlot can be heavenly.
Margan Wines, Merlot, Hunter Valley, 2014
From the ridiculously successful Margan Wines from the Hunter Valley. Ripe plums, Hunter Dirt, powdered drinking chocolate and a little crushed oregano. Smooth and easy palate, medium without being plush or simple. Just lovely plum fruit and a little bit of Mulberry, all quite slick. Tannins are fine and the acids want food. It transitions easily through its modal structure: Subdominant, dominant, tonic.
Wine sample courtesy of Margan Wines
Villa Maria, Merlot, Hawke’s Bay, 2013
The Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island of New Zealand is home to some of their best non-Pinot Noir reds. Villa Maria, one of the founding members of Sustainable Wine Growing NZ, have freshly released this into Australia, and it’s stamped with the Certified Organic logo.
Dark plums, peppery spice, chocolate covered fruit, leafy herbs…smells a little slick. Palate gives up spiced light plums and earthy, minty notes. As sandy tannins dominate, the fruit seems a little reticent (2013 was almost a drought year apparently). Throw some lamb steaks on the barbie, give them a hot sear and char the outside, but keep the middle juicy and this should work okay.
Wine sample courtesy of Villa Maria
TarraWarra Estate, K-Block Merlot, Yarra Valley, 2013
Special little patch of dirt TarraWarra have, as this consistently sets a benchmark for Australian Merlot, and for a bloody good price. From a vineyard originally planted to Pinot Noir in 1989, it was grafted over to Merlot only in 2006 as the fruit always had “enormous colour and tannin, pushing it beyond elegant and pure Pinot Noir…Merlot seemed a natural fit.” Good choice.
Red currant and black currant, a little plush mulberry. Some fennel spice with a hint of crushed ant/formic acid . Plaistow choc and wood shavings. Tomato leafy herb and a smidge of soy/yeasty/umami. Velvet caped tannins sit astride the steed that is those dark currant fruits. Excellent length of flavour in youth, it stands tall and will still age gracefully.
Wine sample courtesy of TarraWarra Estate