The right bank Bordeaux appellations of Pomerol and St Emilion have built their reputations on merlot dominant wines. Pomerol’s Château Pétrus, for example, is regarded as the penultimate expression of merlot and is one of the world’s most expensive wines. (See Château Pétrus 1990: Is it worth the price?, Cellarit Wine Blog, 11 August 2011)
But what about Australian merlot? I don’t think too many people would have trouble naming Australia’s top shiraz, cabernet sauvignon or even pinot noir wines, but can you name our top merlots? In fact, not a single merlot dominant wine is represented in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine V – widely regarded as the definitive list of Australia’s most collectible wines.
Australia has clearly demonstrated its mastery of other Bordeaux styles. Superb cabernet sauvignon blends from the Margaret River, such as the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon for example, have outclassed the very finest competition from Bordeaux in blind tastings and competitions. (See Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon: A World Class Wine, Cellarit Wine Blog, 25 February 20111)
Typically in Australia merlot is blended with cabernet sauvignon, as the generous plummy fruit and soft tannins of merlot fill in cabernet sauvignon’s mid-palate and soften its harder tannins.
Eden Valley’s Irvine Wines stands out in the Australian wine landscape for its absolute commitment to making world class merlot. Its website documents years of research, careful planning and experimentation with the variety.
The real challenge for makers of fine merlot is to add complexity, depth and structure to the variety’s fleshy full fruit characters. For its flagship James Irvine Grand Merlot, Irvine Wines has experimented with various elements, such as ripeness levels, ferment temperatures, extended maturation on skins and oak selection, to create a wine that references the great wines of Pomerol and St Emilion … Read the rest