Sure, it doesn’t stop a nation, but today is also the day that another racy number – Merlot – rears its oft overlooked head and asks you to give it some attention. Yep, 7 November 2017 is International Merlot Day! (For those of you reading abroad or after the event, today also just so happens to be Melbourne Cup Day – Australia’s most significant horse race.)
Perhaps it’s only fitting that its day of glory has been swallowed by a much bigger distraction here in Australia. That just seems to be how things are for poor Merlot. Often regarded as the boring cousin of Shiraz and Cabernet, Merlot is actually a giant in its own right. And it’s time we all looked afresh at this plucky little wine.
You may be surprised to learn that it holds some fairly impressive credentials. It is one of the original seven ‘noble’ grape varieties – stepping out alongside Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah (Shiraz).
It’s also one of the grape varietals used in the world’s most famous and expensive red wines – Bordeaux. And it is the most widely planted grape in the whole Bordeaux region.
Merlot means 'The Little Blackbird' in French. #soadorable
Here in Australia it is often assumed to be just a varietal to be blended with other reds (e.g. Cabernet Merlot anyone?) or else it’s regarded as an approachable, easy drinking, smooth red wine, with a lush fruit sweetness. Kind of like an ‘introductory’ red wine. (Oh, the snobbery!)
That’s because Australia, like many new world wine regions, have for a long time deliberately made Merlot that way. Producers have left the fruit on the vine to ripen really late, so that the result is a wine that is rich and full bodied with very smooth tannins and a va-va-voom of dark fruits.
But the “Bordeaux style” of Merlot – and some would say the ‘proper’ style – is to pick the Merlot earlier so that the grapes still have good acidity, which produces more medium-bodied wines that offer fresh, red fruit, some green leafy characters and good structure.
Aussie wine producers are increasingly going back to this more traditional style. Which means, if you are already a Merlot lover then you’re in luck because now there are more ways to enjoy your favourite drop. And if you have looked down your nose at Merlot for some time, there are more reasons than ever to give Merlot a second look.
The odds you’ll love it are now stacked in your favour.
Here’s three classy Merlots we’ve recently loved sipping:
Raidis Estate Mama Goat Merlot 2014
Eat, drink and be merry with this generous yet restrained Merlot from our fave Coonawarra kids, Raidis Estate. Slurp it with charcoal grilled lamb and garlicky flat bread – just like they do.
Penny’s Hill Malpas Road Merlot 2015
All the plummy flavours you love, delivered with grace and elegance. This McLaren Vale Merlot made by fab winemaker Alexia Roberts also won Trophy for the Best of Show – Australian Red at Mundus Vini in Germany 2017, one of the world’s top international wine shows. Beating out all the Aussie Shiraz and Cab Sav!
Schild Estate Barossa Valley Merlot
When you think Barossa, you don’t think Merlot. But this is here to prove you should. Soft fruit is beautifully delivered on the palate with a hint of spice, with lovely fine tannins. There’s so many layers of goodness to enjoy.