Why do we love Merlot? Fruit driven, plum and cherry flavours with typically less tannin and a smoother, moreish finish – in a nutshell. SA Merlot remains a very popular choice among novices and aficionados alike.
Merlot is often regarded as the underdog to Cabernet Sauvignon. How so? The overwhelming reason is because SA has been producing cheap commercial Merlot for a very long time, and it has given the varietal a bad reputation. Those days are gone (for the most part) and it’s time to set the record straight – SA’s best Merlot’s are world class, and what’s more, they work wonderfully with a wide variety of food. Classic examples being Beef Bourguignon, roasted tomatoes and roasted duck. Be careful not to overwhelm your Merlot with the spice in your food. It’s also not a big fan of fish of leafy green vegetables unless braised or cooked to match.
There’s a distinction to be drawn between cooler and warmer region Merlot, the former with more subtle fruit flavours and higher natural acidity, as well as savoury profile development with age. The warmer areas offer body and bolder flavours, tasting inherently “sweeter” and rounder on the palate. In fact, well-structured, cool climate Merlot is often mistaken for Cabernet – and here’s why:
Both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon originate from the Bordeaux region of France, with the history books documenting somewhere between the 1600-1700’s. What’s surprising is that both wine varieties are born from Cabernet Franc as the father variety, perhaps alluding as to why there are some similarities between them.
Here are some of Merlot’s Primary Characteristics:
FRUIT: Black Cherry, Raspberry, Plum
OTHER: Graphite, Cedar, Tobacco, Vanilla, Clove,
OAK: Yes. Usually medium oak ageing (8-12 months)
Arguably the two top Merlot producers in South Africa, the prestige wines for the collector, is the De Trafford Merlot and Shannon Mount Bullet Merlot – a great example of warmer and cooler region Merlots respectfully.