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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- 2017 Castillo De OliteNavarre D.O.0.75l Red€5.00 €4.13Produced from grapes 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. Perfect for every day drinking.
- MédocCru Bourgeois 0.375l Red€6.00 €4.96An attractive Cru Bourgeois made in the north of the Médoc by the talented grandsons of Marc Pages. Bright dark violet colour, fresh, sweet and fruity on the nose with good blackcurrant flavour, firmly structured palate and a fresh, lively finish. Great value.
- 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 de CarlesFronsac0.375l Red€7.19 €5.94A lovely wine from Fronsac with good ambitions: Medium red colour; pleasant, fresh red fruit on the nose; attractive taste of spice, sweet, vanilla, liquorice, and ripe, plummy fruit. An attractive, round and generous wine with a good sweet long finish.
- 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.
- 2015 Château La PradeFrancs, Côtes de Bordeaux0.375l Red€7.54 €6.23One of our favourite wines made by cousin Nicolas Thienpont in the Côtes de Francs; A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc grapes grown on limestone soils. The limestone character comes out clearly in the wine. Dark colour with a bright garnet rim; lovely open nose full of wild berry and bramble scents; smooth, fresh and pretty on the palate, this is a lovely wine, well-balanced and pure.