A Quick Guide to the Best Merlots Around
By Campbell Mattinson
25 September, 2015
Guilty. As charged. We’ve been known to join the chorus against Australian merlot. Or in the past we have. There’s Merlot from Bordeaux in France and then there’s Merlot from everywhere else, and everywhere else it’s mostly pretty ordinary.
Or so you might have heard us say. Until now. Suddenly Merlot is good. Not just French Merlot. But the Aussie home-grown stuff. And the stuff just quietly that we’re happy to call home-grown because it’s really good, i.e. New Zealand Merlot.
The vines are older and the vines (the clones of Merlot planted) are better, and it’s making a difference. Merlot in Australia has always been more of an idea than a reality; a lot of people want to like it but in the glass it usually doesn’t stack up. Merlot has been all talk, no action. At its best it’s a medium-weight red, not quite as heavy as Cabernet sauvignon but more inherently savoury than Shiraz. It’s not heavy, it’s Cabernet's brother. Merlot is famed for being “soft”. In reality that’s usually meant ‘weak’. But now we’re happy to say Merlot in Australia has its mojo going like never before.
Tarrawarra K Block Merlot 2013 ($30)
Just look at this. A beauty. Tarrawarra in the Yarra Valley has become a Merlot star in recent times. It must be on your Merlot radar.
Mike Press Merlot 2013 ($14)
Mike Press in the Adelaide Hills makes magically well-priced wine but Shiraz and Cabernet sauvignon are usually the beacons. This year his Merlot is out of the blocks. Get on it.
Grey Sands Merlot 2008 ($40)
Merlot master. Out of Tasmania. With the cellaring done for you.
Oakridge Local Series Merlot 2012 ($22)
Might be hard to find but this is a pearler for the cellar.
Oakridge Yarra Valley Merlot 2013 ($30)
They only made 150 dozen of it so good luck trying to find it try the winery but a beautiful Merlot. So good we reviewed it twice.
App note: when the winery has a website it will appear as a green tile in the price search.
Qiwila Merlot 2013 ($7)
Yes, $7. It’s not Aussie, it¹s from Chile, but it’s one of the steals of the year. It’s only available through Aldi stores. It’s soft and ready to rip.
Printhie Mountain Range Merlot 2013 ($20)
Drinkability written all over it. Beautiful mouthfeel. A bit different, in a good way.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Merlot 2013 ($17)
You can’t talk about Merlot without mentioning Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand. It’s a ripper spot to grow this grape, as this easy-going example ably shows. Organically grown to boot.
Craggy Range Sophia 2013 ($85)
Want to go for broke and see what really super duper Merlot tastes like? No better place to start. It’s only two-thirds Merlot but it’s superb with a capital S. An exquisite selection for the cellar.
Balgownie Estate White Label Merlot 2010 ($60)
Magnificent wine. Not cheap but it pours on the full merlot experience, in all its glory.