Merlot, it's one of those underrated varietals which has perhaps had a bit of a bad reputation for being boring because of it's mellow palate. In Bordeaux, where this grape originates they tend to make Merlot in a style that is a lot more structured and less full bodied as we do in the new world. Here we like our Merlots full bodied & fruit forward.
That being said, we don't make a lot of it here in NZ with Merlot making up a mere 3% of our total grapes grown and unsurprisingly as this is grape that loves heat, we grow most of ours in Hawkes Bay.
Merlot is a dark grape which is almost blue in colour, we most commonly blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon as it's such a big belter of a wine the mellowing effect of the Merlot helps to smooth out the edges and make a much more approachable wine.
I'm a recently convert to Merlot as I hadn't rated it much in the past, but I have found some great ones recently that I absolutely rate, as a good low-risk entry level introduction to Merlot, you just can't beat this one from Giesen, it's the Vineyard Selection Merlot 2015 and you can pick it up for $15 - $17 in supermarkets. Giesen are synonmous with consistancy at an affordable price, which I love. This Hawkes Bay Merlot has flavours of stewed plum & dark berries with just a hint of clove spice.
You can't talk about Hawkes Bay without mentioning stalwards Trinity Hill, John Hancock, who actually no longer works for Trinity Hill but is off doing his own exciting project (but more on that later) is a legend of wine in The Bay. This 2016 has flavours of chocolate, plums, blackberry, it's fruit forward with just a hint of spice and available widely for a very affordable $19
So are you already a Merlot adorable and want to kick your experience up a notch? Well have I got the wine for you! This Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Merlot is a 2013 vintage no less, and let me tell you as far as NZ wine goes 2013 was a stonking vintage due to a long dry season. This goodness has been sitting in the bottle just getting better & will continue to do so for quite a while yet if you are the cellaring type. This wine has layers of complexity and deliciousness that blew my mind & clearly I wasn't the only one as this wine has won an embarrassing amount of awards, it is deep in colour and decadent flavours oozing black plum, coffee and the spice on the nose reminds me of when I was a kid making Christmas cake with my Mam. Amazing. If all that wasn't enough, it's also organic. Seriously. It's not cheap at $60, but if you want to make the investment, you won't be sorry.
So if you've been avoiding Merlot (as I have) give one of these a go - I am keen to hear what you think!
Click the link below to hear my chat with Trudi Nelson (in for Wendyl) on the RadioLIVE Long Lunch