A few years ago, an American movie Sideways, mocked the easy charm and ubiquity of Merlot. Sales in the U.S. tumbled and it seemed as if Merlot’s future was uncertain. However, on the other side of the Atlantic, Merlot is the most planted grape variety in Bordeaux and its charm, its early ripening and its high sugar levels can explain its success. Merlot is round and voluptuous when ripe; it envelops the palate with juicy plum fruit, round tannins and a silky texture.
Like its sibling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot makes good wines in a variety of climates and regions. It is easy to grow, producing good yields and more sweet, round fruit often with an opulent character. It comes to its peak on the plateau of Pomerol where two famous wines, Le Pin and Petrus, are made uniquely from Merlot grapes. Here, the cooler, water-retentive soils of calcareous clay are ideally suited to Merlot, which requires less heat to ripen than Cabernet Sauvignon. In Saint-Emilion , it is often blended with Cabernet Franc, which lends minty freshness, acidity and tannic structure to the sometimes overly rounded Merlot. Pomerol can be recognised by its earthy truffle scent while Saint-Emilion wines are more fruit-dominated. Once mature, these wines develop a typically smoky aroma.
Merlot’s character is often exploited in blending: in Tuscan Chianti, for instance, soft Merlot rounds Sangiovese’s rougher edges while Vino Nobile di Montepulciano gains extra juiciness and fruit by its addition. Elsewhere in the world, it is very important in Chile and to a lesser extent in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
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- 2018 Castillo De OliteNavarre D.O.0.75l Red€5.20 €4.30This is our best value wine which we have been selling for several decades and thanks to the recent purchase by the Bodegas Manzanos Campanas who are the oldest winery in the region. The year of the company’s founding, 1864 now features on the label. Produced from predominantly Garnacha grapes with a little Tempranillo grown in the hillsides of Navarre in the north of Spain, this light and fruity red wine is aromatic and easy drinking. For more than 20 years it has been a great favourite of our clientele.
- 2014 Chateau le BostBergerac0.75l Red€6.96 €5.75Quite a traditional wine with lots of character and aromas of red fruits, tobacco and cedar. Produced in the charming region of Bergerac, just south-east of Bordeaux, the wines from here are just a little more rich and rustic.
- 2016 Château PuygueraudFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€7.43 €6.14Purchased by Georges Thienpont in 1946 and home to his family of 13 children, Puygueraud is a testament to the Thienpont family who put the Côtes de Francs on the Bordeaux wine map. This is a really charming vintage with a dark crimson colour, fresh and spicy nose with wild herb aromas, blueberries and blackcurrants; lovely spice and freshness, on the palate with great persistence. Delicious with lots of life and verve. Super.
- 2011 Château La PradeFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€7.45 €6.16An appealling deep violet colour,very fragrant and spicy on the nose, opulent and round with sumptuous autumn fruit flavours on the palate-a mix of blackberries and boysenberries with a touch of wild herbs; nice spicy finish.
- 2012 Château PuygueraudFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€7.45 €6.16Very pretty vivid purple colour; appealling nose with crunchy red fruits; smooth on the palate showing good intensity of fruit, acidity and a touch of wild herbs, spicy and nicely oaked on the finish. Very pleasing. A great achievement.
- 2015 Château de CarlesFronsac0.375l Red€7.54 €6.23One of the best values of the vintage, we prefer the de Carles 2015 to the richer, more extracted Haut-Carles. This is a lovely wine with rather wild, autumn fruit flavours, lovely purity and freshness typical of an organic wine, good spiciness and lots of life. Delicious already, this should keep well for a decade.
- 2014 Château PuygueraudFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€7.71 €6.37This Thienpont family wine, made by Nicolas Thienpont is a blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. It is intense and structured in the nose with spicy aromas of nutmeg and cloves. There are lovely black fruit flavours on the palate with good intensity and a good tannic structure leading to a rich finish.
- 2013 Château FonbelSaint-Émilion Grand Cru0.375l Red€8.09 €6.69Vibrant and deeply coloured. Juicy and fresh on the nose with crisp acidity and aromas of prunes and damsons. The palate has flavours of red fruit with pretty notes of spice. A good richness and fine soft structure.
- 2008 Château La PradeFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€8.16 €6.74Pretty colour and intensity. Ripe and expressive on the nose with a lovely fruity lift and autumn berry aromas. A pretty structure despite the preceptible tannins.