Posts Tagged Merlot

Give Merlot and Chardonnay a second chance

Sideways (2004): “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving”

First puyblished in The Irish Times, Saturday September 23rd, 2017

Fashion is a fickle business. In the not-too-distant past, a wine producer wondering what grape varieties to plant in a new vineyard would have gone straight for Chardonnay and Merlot.

These were, after all, the most sought-after wines around the world. Given that a vine takes three years to produce grapes and a decade to make decent wine, predicting future trends can be a dangerous business.

Nowadays, I suspect Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Malbec would be at the top of the list for any prospective producer.

But a decade or so ago, Merlot was everybody’s darling. It is widely planted in North and South America, and elsewhere, too, is relatively easy to grow and produces decent yields.

The wines are very attractive, too, medium-bodied with velvety soft, rounded plummy fruits and none of those drying tannins associated with Cabernet Sauvignon. Even better, Merlot doesn’t require lengthy ageing. All of the wines, even the very best, are drinkable from the start.

How the mighty have fallen. Merlot became a dirty word largely thanks to the 2004 movie Sideways, where Myles, the main protagonist says ‘If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any f***ing Merlot.’

Suddenly, everyone wanted Myles’s favourite, Pinot Noir, instead. Sales plummeted, particularly in the US. Yet we continued to drink Merlot, sometimes unwittingly, as most of the red wines of Bordeaux and the surrounding area will contain some Merlot in the blend. In areas such as Pomerol, it makes up 100 per cent of the wine, including the most famous pure Merlot of all, Petrus.

As for Chardonnay, it may have reached tipping point when Bridget Jones began drinking large glasses to console herself after her latest disaster. Much of the Chardonnay produced back then was heavily and clumsily oaked, and often high in alcohol, too, when the world began looking for something lighter and fresher. Enter Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

This is unfair on Chardonnay, one of the greatest grapes of all, and these days made in a much more appealing style. In my experience, most consumers love Chardonnay – until they see the label. As with Merlot, the French have us drinking it unknowingly. Just about every bottle of white Burgundy, from Chablis to Meursault to Mâcon is 100 per cent Chardonnay.

These days most less expensive Chardonnays are unoaked and a degree or two lighter in alcohol. They make great food wines, but are also perfect on their own. A good Merlot is supple and fruity; a real crowd-pleaser, in other words.

So this weekend, spare a thought for two of fashion’s forgotten victims, and try out a bottle of Chardonnay or Merlot. You should be in for a pleasant surprise.

Aresti Bellavista Chardonnay Reserva 2016
13%, €12.99 (€10 on promotion)

A very well-made, medium-bodied wine bursting with peach fruits and fresh, zesty acidity. Perfect on its own or with salmon.
Stockists: SuperValu

Lettre d’Aloise Chardonnay 2014
Coteaux Bourguignons, 13%, €17.95

A delectable, elegant white Burgundy with floral aromas and free-flowing fresh green fruits.
Stockists: Le Caveau, Kilkenny: Fallon & Byrne; World Wide Wines; 64 Wines; Green Man Wines; Mitchell & Son; Bradley’s, Cork

Santa Rita Merlot 120 Reserva Especial
Central valley, Chile, 13.5%, €11.99

Mellow, rounded ripe plum fruits with a dusting of spice. With or without food.
Stockists: widely available including SuperValu, Centra, Tesco, Dunnes Stores.

Atalon Merlot 2011
Pauline’s Cuvée, Napa Valley, 14.5%, €27.45

Ripe, voluptuous dark fruits with roasted coffee and black olives. A big warm hug of a wine.
Stockists: O’Briens

Posted in: Irish Times

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Arpège de Marsau 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs

Arpège de Marsau 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs

Image 3Arpège de Marsau 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs
Available for €14.95 down from €19.95 from O’Briens

Rich smooth blackcurrant fruits, with a touch of spice and a nicely rounded finish. Relatively full-bodied for a Bordeaux, this is a nice wine and very good value at less than €15.

Drink with roast red meats. A leg or shoulder of lamb would be a lovely weekend treat.

Ch. Marsau is one of the leading properties in the Côte de Francs, now renamed Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs. It is one of the value areas of Bordeaux when compared to nearby Saint Emilion and Pomerol. I have many happy memories of mature grand vin of Ch. Marsau. This is a more approachable version.

Posted in: Top Drop

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Tour de Gendres Rouge 2014, Bergerac

<strong>Tour de Gendres Rouge 2014, Bergerac</strong>

tour 2011Tour de Gendres Rouge 2014, Bergerac
€15-15.50 from Avoca, Rathcoole; Baggot St. Wines; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Donnybrook Fair; Liston’s, Camden St.; World Wide Wines, Waterford; 64wine, Glasthule; MacGuiness, Dundalk; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; Green Man Wines, Terenure.

At one time, this was one of my all-time favourite red wines. I hadn’t come across it for a while so for a while, so I was delighted to see it at a tasting recently; it is as good as ever and still something of a bargain. Made by the de Conti family in Bergerac (right next-door to Bordeaux) this is modern French winemaking at its best. Light fresh blackcurrant and plum fruits, no oak and a dryish finish. Clean and moreish; perfect everyday wine to match up with roast meats – pork, lamb or beef, or pâtés and other charcuterie.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Gloire de mon Père 2014, Tour des Gendres, Bergerac

Gloire de mon Père 2014, Tour des Gendres, Bergerac

gloryGloire de mon Père 2014, Tour des Gendres, Bergerac

€22 from Le Caveau, Kilkenny, Green Man Wines, Terenure, 64wine, Glasthule and other leading independent wine shops.

Smooth elegant wine with ripe blackcurrant fruits, a touch of spice and a long dry finish. Serve it with roast red meats.

Luc de Conti has long been a shining beacon in Bergerac, an underrated region next door to Bordeaux. I am a big fan of the Tour de Gendres ‘classique’ (see above) his entryish level red that sells for around €15. However for €7 more, you can buy the Gloire de mon Père, and glorious it is too. A blend of 50% Cabernet sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Malbec, this is a Bordeaux lookalike of the very highest quality; except if it came from Bordeaux it would cost a lot more.

Posted in: Top Drop

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