Merlot – back on speed-dial
The film ‘Sideways’ is brilliant. However, I have one big problem with it and I’m sure lots of other wine geeks feel the same. The character Miles doesn’t like Merlot; actually it’s not just that he doesn’t like it – he hates it. I can understand hatred towards a grape… I feel that way about Pinot Grigio, although that’s another story. But if Miles really detests Merlot then why is it the primary grape in the blend of the most treasured bottle in his collection (Cheval Blanc 1961)??
About 10 years ago, Merlot was my go-to wine. I didn’t know a whole lot about wine then but I knew what I liked, and I liked Merlot. But in all honestly, as I’ve become more interested and enthralled with wine, I have forgotten about Merlot. I’ve become obsessed with the delicacy and charm of Pinot Noir, the power of Cabernet Sauvignon and the earthiness of Grenache. I love the smokiness of Syrah, the silkiness of Barbera and the fragrance of Cabernet Franc. Merlot has become a forgotten entry in my address book, an ignored old friend.
But recently a couple of things happened that made me re-evaluate and renew my relationship with this most juicy and fruity of vinous friends. The first was a sample I tried from my favourite wine merchant, Wine & the Vine. It was from the Curico Valley in Chile and it was fabulous. The wine had such an enticing aroma of dark ripe fruit, entwined with strawberry and then a dash of spice and chocolate. The texture was silky and the fruit was intense and juicy. Merlot was back in the game.
Then I spent a week in Bordeaux. The first half of the week was wonderful on the left bank in the Medoc; big, powerful and muscular wines from big, famous chateaux were the order of the day. Then we moved to the right bank. Three days in St Emilion and the reintegration of Merlot into my life was complete. Merlot is king on the Right Bank and the wines are supple, juicy, fresh and energetic.
Merlot is back on speed-dial and is set to stay there for quite some time. And as for Miles? Well, if my experience of a marvellous Cheval Blanc 1995 is anything to go by, in that scene when he is drinking his treasured bottle with a burger then hopefully he is re-evaluating the merits of Merlot too!
Vina Echeverria Merlot Reserva 2011, Curico Valley, Chile (Wine and the Vine £10.85)
Really enticing nose of dark ripe fruit, plum, almost damson but entwined with some strawberry and then a dash if spice and chocolate. Silky mouthful with lots of intense fruit and a delicious chocolatey finish. Not long but very tasty.90 points
Chateau L’Enclos 2009, Pomerol (En Primeur Ltd £23.30)
79% Merlot, 19% Cab Franc, 2% Malbec
Intense nose of red cherry fruit with an earthy, mushroom undertone. In the mouth its full bodied but soft and has a beautiful balance. Tannins are still prominent but the freshness is there to bring this together beautifully over the next few years. The finish is big and a bit warm at present (kirsch) but give it time. 91++
Chateau Fonplegade 2004, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe (Fine & Rare £24.00)
91% Merlot, 7% Cab Franc, 2% Cab Sav
Bright cherry and raspberry aromas with a hint of blackcurrant. Then come the animal and leather notes and a delightful waft of truffle. On the palate its smooth and silky, beautifully fresh and enormously concentrated. An excellent wine, the real deal. 92 points