From my tasting notebook:
Intensely colored, smartly polished. Toasty oak? Yes, but expect more—something herbal, something minty, and something sooty. In the nose resides an intense deliciousness. Explosive berries, brown sugar, and chocolate.
Despite my persistent Merlot advocacy, I have scared up some sweet, rotund dogs lately. If this was one of those stinkers, it certainly would be softer—boasting a sweet attack, cushy, poke-able midpalate and flabby, out-of-breath finish. The kind of wine that can stain teeth, jazz a party, and split a head. Thankfully, it doesn’t. We’re safe.
There is a beautiful bitterness that strikes straight through the guts of this wine and keeps the brassy fruit and toasty oak from settling too heavily on the the tongue. Don’t miss/can’t miss the chalky, somewhat medicinal quality to the cherries.
Carey bought me this for me. She made a special trip to my favorite wine store, and picked it out on her own. We both enjoy Merlot, but tend to avoid it in an entry price point, where it has really earned a negative reputation as being an empty vessel for sweet oak. Instead, we work the discounts and drink better examples less frequently.
I just saw a Twomey Merlot I used to pluck off the shelves at Purdy’s for under $25 for $49.99 in a shop less than an hour away. I also appreciate Merlot blended with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Petite Verdot for a stiffer tannic profile and added flavor complexity.
I spent a few minutes sifting through some musings, most of which were in some way tied to Sideways, theorizing reasons for the general lack of enthusiasm for this grape. I found some good stuff:
In its least-common-denominator form, a lot of Merlot is indeed sourced from greedily over-produced vineyards and vinified in a soft, sweetish and blowzy crowd-pleasing style. -Wine Lovers Page, 30 Second Wine Advisor: What’s the matter with Merlot?
As a red grape, Merlot is the “un-red wine,” the twin to Chardonnay in its use as a neutral, low-acid base for oak flavoring. Like Chardonnay, they all taste virtually the same—like wood. -Willie Gluckstern, The Wine Avenger
People will point at you and giggle. -Tommy
It’s the NASCAR of wine. -Unknown