Guest Post – Proving ‘Sideways’ Wrong: Understanding Merlot

Mar 05, 14 Guest Post – Proving ‘Sideways’ Wrong: Understanding Merlot

Posted by in Guest Post

Comedy enthusiasts and wine lovers alike might remember the film ‘Sideways’, the tale of two wine lovers on a stag weekend. No doubt the part that sticks in their memory is one of the lead characters voicing an angry refusal to drink Merlot. Naturally, the film won’t have done any favours for this dry, red wine. Who knows, a lot of the audience might not have known anything about wine at all — other than that it tastes good! — so perhaps we should see learn a little about Merlot, about how it’s made, before anyone else turns their nose up at it. A River Runs Through It The first thing to know about Merlot is that it’s a Bordeaux wine. The blend of grapes in this south west region of France is particularly prominent. Sure, most places blend grapes, but not quite like Bordeaux! If someone tells you that you’re drinking a ‘right-bank’ Bordeaux wine, it’s not a shot in the dark to guess that it’s a Merlot. They’re actually a clue as to the blend of grapes in the wine. In right-bank wines, Merlot grapes have a heavier presence in the blend, whereas in left-bank ones Cabernet Sauvignon grapes gain the upper hand. You can both identify the wine type a touch easier and sound knowledgeable at a party! Jumping to It Merlot grapes wait for no one. They’re quick to over-ripen, so once they’re ripe for the picking, you have to get straight in there if you don’t want a dull tasting wine. (Incidentally, a winery and university in Valencia has actually created a ‘tongue’ that detects when a grape is ripe for winemaking, in case you should have problems in that sphere!) You can pick the grapes by hand or machine. With the picker on the ball, the grapes then find themselves swiftly en route to the winery, where they’re de-stemmed and crushed for fermentation. This fermentation can be conducted using yeast naturally in the air, or, for a more consistent final product, with selected strands of yeast. The length of the fermentation is up to the winemaker, but, normally, this...

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Voyager Estate 2005 cabernet/merlot, a tasting note

Dec 06, 12 Voyager Estate 2005 cabernet/merlot, a tasting note

Posted by in Australia

Voyager Estate cab/merlot 2005 Winesleuth note: I write wine reviews for and from time to time, I will re-post them here on ‘Sleuth. Here’s a post about a great Australian cab/merlot from Voyager Estate…. I was recently at a wine tasting of Voyager Estate Wines at Vinoteca here in London and it was a very interesting tasting indeed. I have a so-so track record when it comes to Australian red wines but lately I have been tasting some great stuff. Although Shiraz is the flagship wine of Australia, they are making some great wines from other red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and even the “wine of Argentina”, Malbec. Voyager Estate is situated in the Margaret River Valley in the South West corner of Western Australia. The region is renowned for its viticultural products and was identified back in the 1960s as a premium wine-growing region of Australia. The region has a range of microclimates and soils. The best vineyards are planted only in the most suitable soils so although the region is spread over 3000 square kilometres, only 54 kilometres are under vine. So I think it’s fair to say that Voyager have picked the best spots to make their wine. Voyager has a range of Estate wines which is their core focus.  They only produce 6 different wines but feel that they reflect best the terroir of the region. They are Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Chenin Blanc and the Girt by Sea Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. At the tasting the stand-out for me was the 2005 Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. Comprising 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot, all fruit coming from the Margaret River, it is a delicious Bordeaux-style blend coming from Australia. The wine had had enough time to age, something that is not common in Australia. James Stevens, the winemaker was at the dinner and he commented that one of the “problems” with Australian wine drinkers is that they drink their wines far...

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Istrian merlot from Moreno Coronica

May 04, 11 Istrian merlot from Moreno Coronica

Posted by in Croatia

Croatia and its wines seem to be on my radar lately. It all started late last year right before I went to Argentina. I was given a sample of two to try and although I wasn’t able to try them until 3 months later, I thought, hmmm, interesting and not bad at all. Forward to a week and a half ago and I’m visiting a friend in a small spa town near Padua tweeting about hanging out and wondering out loud what wine I would find here. A tweet from @pc_wines tells me I should come to Istria as I’m very close. How close? About 1.5 hrs by train close. So off to the train station to buy a ticket to Trieste from which the wonderful folks of Pacta Connect Wines (Trevor and Judith) would pick me up and drive the last 30 minutes to Umag, their base in Istria. Trevor and Judith are huge fans of Croatian wines, having come across the wines of the region over 6 years ago, they were smitten and ever since then have been scouting  out the best wines of the region and importing them to the UK. They’re not interested in cheap or mass produced wine, they’re looking for quality wines from producers who care about their wines and which are hopefully good value for money. They like to work with small producers and one of the first ones we visited was Moreno Coronica. We drove out to visit his vineyards in the village of Koreniki, his family have been in the area so long that they even have their very own village. I later found out that that is quite common but still, you’re own village! Istria was part of the Venetian empire until the early 19th century and between the world wars, Istria was considered part of Italy which explains why Moreno’s 84 yr old father prefers to speak  Italian. The area around the winery was a hive of construction. Moreno is busy building a...

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Listz in the cellar, visiting the Kirnbauer Vineyards, Austria

I´ve heard of abattoirs in the UK that play classical music to the animals while they are waiting for the chop and  on a more pleasant note, people have been known to play classical music to their unborn children but classical music in a wine cellar? For the barrels? Well, why not?  They are slowly “growing up” as the French refer to maturation (elevage)  in the barrel. We were listening to the soft strains of Listz while down in the very modern wine cellar of  Kirnbauer Vineyards just outside Duetshkreuz, Mittleburg, Austria. Their cellar is very new replete with a plexiglass walkway above the cellar so you can look down and see the barrels while walking above them. Conversly, Markus says in summer, it’s also fun to be in the cellar looking up….the boys seemed to agree with that statement…but anyway… Listz was born just 5 kms away and the winemakers thought it would be nice to have local boy playing along to the local grapes. Kirnbauer is a family owned and operated  vineyard near the town of Deutschkreuz, amongst the hills of Mittleberg and close to the Neusiedlrsee.  Together, they create a unique microclimate that allows for the grapes to flourish, the hills protecting them from the winds and the shallow sea creating a warm pocket for the grapes to grow. An interesting tidbit I picked up on my trip to Burgenland with a group of winebloggers after the European Winebloggers Confernce in Austria recently. Kirnbauer specialize in blaufrankisch and, indeed the area is known as blaufrankischland because it grows so well there. A red varietal that is the specialty of Austria, blaufrankisch is a mineral laden red wine that comes from mostly the East of Austria in the area known as Burgenland. Often sporting boysenberry and red berry flavours, spice and slate notes with, depending on the area and style, either mouth coating tannins or round and elegant, it´s  red wine that´s hard to ignore. While I was in Burgenland, I tried many different blaufrankisch and many of them...

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Redwood Creek Wines

I neglected ‘Sleuth a bit during the month of July because I was so busy working summer festivals. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in this country for 4 years, I’d never been to a proper British music festival. I still haven’t been to a proper British music festival but I worked/attended Art in Oxford and the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall. The Port Eliot Festival is a literary festival situated on the manor grounds of Lord and Lady St. Germans and every year plays host to a variety of authors as well as various musical groups. I loved the location, the festival was spread among the rolling green hills of the estate, as well as in the woods and along the river that runs through the estate. You’re probably wondering, “What the hell does this have to do with wine?” I’m getting to it. I was sent some wine by the California winemaker Redwood Creek and thought it would be great to take along these wines to a nature setting. Redwood Creek like to think of themselves as a wine of the Great Outdoors and what better place to try their wines then in the wilds of Cornwall. My friends and I stopped by the river to taste the Redwood Creek 2008 Merlot. A straightforward merlot, plums and black cherry, a bit of spice and mocha,  lovely round tannins but not jammy or overcooked. It was fresh and relaxed. I was really expecting a gigantic fruit bomb but this wine was nicely balanced. It’s a nice little wine, perfect for picnics or festivals when you really just want a good time wine. We joked that this wine was the good time girl of wines, lots of fun but you wouldn’t exactly take her home to meet your mom. We also tried the 2008 Redwood Creek Cabernet but felt it wasn’t as well balanced as the merlot nor was it anywhere near as satisfying as it. If you’re faced with both in the aisle,...

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