“Enjoy the wine, don’t spill the night…”

Talismanist Giebra

I've always said that you have to be a plonker to make a poor merlot but then I tasted an awful the other day and realised there's always at least one in every profession. To be honest, it’s as if a higher power decided that winemakers needed at least one grape that had no pretensions about it and over the years, my plonker statement has generally held firm and most merlots are just moreish.

On the flip side of course, there's always the winemaker who excels and when you put your best efforts into merlot, boy does it reward. There are one or two on the market at present that really are the dog's crown jewels such as Irvine's Estate Merlot from Australia or better still, their Grand Merlot. The latter should say ‘dilute to taste’ on the label and is more velvety than your average cinema seat.

While it excels all over the world, the awful one I tried was an Aussie so in order to wipe that experience from memory, I went on an Aussie merlot binge and had a rather pleasant weekend. Merlot is of course one of the classic Bordeaux varieties and is largely used for blending but my not so secret passion is for the single grape varieties, not least because its a good benchmark for the vineyard. If they knock out a thin merlot, you definitely don't want to subject your palate to their cabernet!

Aussie merlot is generally categorized by its softness, roundness and plummy fruits, making them the ideal wine when you really can't be bothered making the effort yourself. They are as happy to partner a steak as they are a packet of cheese crisps and their soft creamy palate makes them rather effective parents for Indian dishes. Try pairing a cabernet with a dansak and you’ll get my drift.

I'm often asked what the best Australian region is for merlot but to be honest, I don't think it's that easy. Every winemaking region has at least one winemaker excelling with the grape but I guess if it came down to it, I'd go for either Margaret River or McLaren Vale. Actually, let's go for the former. It's generally blended there but on the odd occasion you find a single varietal, snap it up as they will never let you down.


Watford Observer:

The Exhibitionist Merlot

I love this wine with it’s silky, easy going fruit but it has a serious side as well. 10 months in oak barrels has added a level of complexity as well as a hint of vanilla. Seriously, what's not to love?

Flagship Wines £11.99

Sandford Estate Merlot

I've had one or two wines from this estate over the years and never been disappointed. Their merlot is just lush for the price with warm plums and hints of cocoa. It should come with a warning label as this is too easy to enjoy!

Tanners Wines £8.60

Watford Observer:

  • Gerard Richardson MBE is a wine columnist for Newsquest