Week 45 – Merlot

We tasted: Filia de Grand Mayne, M&S, £23

Emma says: “And the big judgement commences. For once we have managed to strike gold and have a lovely bottle of St Emilion Grand Cru at home; a welcome break from scouring the shops for our weekly grape.”

It is also a rare thing, it is Andy’s wine. Normally wine collecting is my thing and he sticks firmly to hoarding a veritable mountain of spirits.

The wine we have is a “second wine” which is a relatively new thing in Bordeaux. It means a well known Chateau has selected out its best fruit for its top wine which you pay top dollar for. Then it produces a second wine with the fruit that don’t quite make its first selection. Normally you get great value for money from these wines since they have the first class winemaking of the top wine but cost a fraction of the price. And as Bordeaux Chateau prices have risen over recent decades many people have resorted to buying these second wines that don’t break your bank balance quite as seriously. Mind you they still all cost over £20 a bottle so either way they fall into my “special” wine territory.

Wines of the right bank are typically a bit more easy going than the Medoc (left bank) wines that are Cabernet dominant. The merlot fruit being dominant in the blend you can find that there is a rich berry fruit nose and supple easy going palate. Typically these wines are blended with a little Cabernet Franc to add a structural element plus a nice herbaceous character.

Our wine is from 2011 which means it has a decent bit of age. And I was pleased to find it really came through on the aroma. It has a lovely soft shoe leather character, along with tobacco and a sweet fragrant plummy character typical of Merlot. The vintage was quite cool and not one of the best but pleasingly this has given it a sweet herbal tinge in a pleasant way. To taste it was supple and silky in texture, in fact it felt beautifully smooth. It opened out in layers of flavour that started with cassis and plum fruit and developed to sweet licquorice, coffee bean, clove and that earthy mocha that comes with age. I’m so pleased that we got a wine that really shows that Merlot can be complex, it isn’t as structured as a Cabernet but that gives it an elegance and finesse that definitely elevates above an average wine.

Andy says: “I find it much easier to describe wines that are full of big, bold flavours. ‘It smells like an old, muddy boot, and tastes like the inside of the finest cherry pie you ever had.’

This wine though, is soft, delicate and refined. I don’t have the palate nor the food tasting experience to discern anything helpful. If pushed, I would say dark fruits, like cherry. On the nose there is a soft leather aroma, and the tannins are soft and supple, giving a light grip that lessens with a long finish.

I suspect this wine is much better than I am able to tell.”

Buying Guide

Poor Merlot got a bad reputation after the iconic wine film “Sideways” put it down. It is a soft fleshy grape which means it can make simple wines without massive structure. But you can’t forget that some of the most expensive wines in the world in Bordeaux (St Emlion/Pomerol) are made mostly from this grape. So this week we are heading right to its heartland of Bordeaux to seek out one of those and see if we can put it to the test.

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