Strain often inexplicably reviled – think American cult film Sideways – However, Merlot can make truly amazing wines. Suffice it obviously to think of the famous Petrus (without an accent and please don’t say “Château” Petrus), but also of a multitude of great wines produced in Bordeaux, where he accounts for more than 65% of the planted area. He is evidently king in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, but he has his entries in the Médoc and in Graves. It’s obviously found all over the world, but there’s often the best of itself in California, Italy, and Chile. Without forgetting the Niagara Valley, where it can surprise. It is rarely found alone and more commonly mixed with other varietals. The most famous of its accomplices is of course Cabernet Sauvignon, but it goes very well with Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Immediately charming, if cultivated and vinified with care, it possesses the qualities necessary for good aging. Here are two to discover. The first is at the peak of its maturity curve, while the second should reveal all its secrets within three or four years.
drink less Drink better.
Chateau Garraud 2016, Lalande de Pomerol, France
$30.75 – SAQ Code 978072 – 14%
We are in the presence of a wonderfully classic expression of Merlot. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, which make up almost 80% of the blend, play a supporting role. Coming from a great vintage, the wine opens straightforward with charming aromas of black fruit, moist earth, red meatblood, mushrooms and sweet spices. The palate is a happy blend of silky fruit and soft tannins, all culminating in an amazing finish of length and precision. The wine is certainly rich, even heady on the finish, but the freshness of the fruit brings an undeniable balance. Pure pleasure!
★★★ 1⁄2 $$$
Le Macchiole 2020, Bolgheri, Italy
$39.25 – SAQ Code 15081270 – 13.5%
Macchiole, flagship producer of the famous Mediterranean region of Toscace, is best known for its Messorio cuvée, a super Tuscan snatched up by the nouveau riche. Its “Junior” version is not only offered cheaper, but is often more fun. Half of it is dominated by Merlot, which is complemented by Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Syrah. The latter, however, representing less than 15%, are immediately illustrated on the nose with their floral side, while notes of black fruits and spices complete the olfactory picture. On the palate, the Merlot reveals its attributes with its tight texture, elegant tannins, albeit still grainy, fullness and a lingering aromatic finish. A serious wine that will give its best in 3 or 4 years. Expensive, but there is potential for aging here.
★★★ 1⁄2 $$$$
★★★ Very good
More stars than dollars: worth the price.
As many stars as dollars: worth the price.
Less stars than dollars: the wine is expensive.