Most French wines you may be come across will only display the producer’s name and the region, which means you need to develop a sense of direction and regional awareness in order to get an idea of what varietal profile to expect. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this bottle with its varietal shown prominently, and was compelled to give it a try.
Flavor Intensity: Medium
Readiness/Cellaring: Can drink now, potential to cellar
Identity: France / Bordeaux / Merlot
Price: Mid-priced ($14.99)
Long, thin tears
Also under diam closure
Aromas of raspberries, blueberries, stewed fruits, crushed berries
Flavours of raspberry, blueberry, violet, bitter dark chocolate, confectionery
Cleansing acidity with chalky tannins
Bitter aftertaste seems to linger at edges of tongue
Something rich and savoury to counter bitter elements
Steak + Diane sauce
There are a lot of good wines made in France, but the more affordable offerings seem to get lost in the shadow of their more premium superstars. This is probably one of the reasons why some producers are changing over to varietal labelling, to attract a customer base already used to such practices. I also noted the diam cork closure as well, which I have approved of in the past as being a good balance of modern development and traditional ritual.
You’ll see in the above photo that I have a very different kind of corkscrew – depending on who you ask, you could call it a Butler’s Friend or Wine Prongs. I bought it recently because I am expecting to try a very old wine sooner or later, and older wines tend to have older corks that can disintegrate when you use a regular corkscrew. It worked quite well on this occasion, so I may add this item to the Essentials list eventually.
Despite accounting for the greater proportion of plantings in Bordeaux, Merlot does seems to play second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon, possibly due to the increasing perception on a global level that wines should be big and full-bodied and tannic. Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften it and create a more balanced style of wine. It’s also for this reason that you will often see Cabernet Merlot offerings from New World regions.
There is another interesting explanation behind the cultivation of multiple varietals in Bordeaux – no vintage is predictable, and vineyards are at the mercy of the elements, particularly rainfall. By diversifying their selection of varietals, which flower and ripen at different times, it’s hope that if one varietal under-performs, the others will be able to pick up the slack, and by blending multiple varietals year after year they can create a consistent quality of wine.
This process has been going on for centuries. No matter how much technological progress occurs, the New World will always have something to learn from the Old World as well. And with the two working together to improve the quality of their wines, that can only mean good news for the rest of us.
PS – Want to learn more about your personal tastes and preferences? Consider getting a Personal Wine Consultation today!
Read more: A Rational Approach to Wine Tasting