There are few Australian merlots I have tasted of this calibre at this price. From Tinhorn Creek in the Okanagan Valley in Canada, this wine opens to aromas of red fruits and evident oak. The palate is savoury, with notes of spice, dried herbs and red fruits. Ready to drink now or over the next 5-8 years, this is a high quality expression of merlot. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14%. Price: mid $30s. Website: tinhorn.com. Reviewed: January 2020.
This merlot is from the Ferguson Valley, north of the Margaret River. It is a ripe and balanced expression of merlot, with aromatics of clove, smoke and eucalytpus. The palate reminds of red fruits and has a fresh tomato character. Ready to drink now, this is pleasant drinking. Rating: Good. Abv: 14.8%. Price: $23. Website: Source: Sample.
This artistically labelled wine from Wills Domain in the Margaret River is a sparkling rosé made from 100% merlot. Pale in colour, it has aromas of red fruit and toast. The palate is dry and pleasant and has a delicate mousse. A well made wine that is ready to drink now. Rating: Good. Abv: 12%. Price: $39. Website: http://willsdomain.com.au. Source: Sample. Reviewed: September 2019.
A slight mouthful of name, places and grape varieties, this wine is deep in colour with an inky nose reminding of tar and liquorice. The palate is expressive of dark plums, tannins and leaf and has a bitter finish. This wine is approachable now with decanting, but will benefit from a further 2-3 years cellaring. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $29. Website: darenberg.com.au. Source: Sample.
Last weekend, the annual Institute of Masters of Wine Bordeaux tasting in bottle of the 2014 vintage took place in Sydney. I expected this to be a much more popular event than the previous year’s tasting of the 2013s (you can read my reviews of that tasting here) which was a poor vintage. But in fact, I would say there were substantially fewer people at the 2014 tasting. It is hard to imagine that an equivalent event, with say most of the leading estates assembled of Burgundy or Piemonte, would be so quiet.
The good news is that I tasted through nearly all of the wines, and was able to do so at some leisure. My short notes and observations follow. In short, I would describe the 2014s as a classic Bordeaux vintage, with many very good wines. I have put an asterisks next to the best wine of each appellation, on this tasting.
Château Bouscat. Merlot dominant (55%). Iron earth, capsicum aromas. Herbal, oak. Good
Château de Fieuzal. 48% cabernet sauvignon and 45% merlot. Aromas of tomato stalk, red fruits. Firm tannins and acidity on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Malartic-Lagraviere. 52% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. Deep colour, attractive pencil lead aroma. Saturated fruit, good intensity and structured palate. Very Good
*Château Smith Haut Lafitte. 62% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 6% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. This was the highlight of the Pessac-Léognan group. Velvety, blackcurrant aroma, with pencil lead notes. Crisp acidity coupled with long length on the palate. Outstanding
Domaine de Chevalier. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Somewhat muted aroma of pencil lead and blackcurrants. The palate has firm tannins, acid and structure. Good to Very Good
Château Belgrave. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Aromas of capsicum and cardamum. The palate has very firm acidity and a greenness. Good
Château Cantemerle. 47% cabernet sauvignon and 38% merlot. Capsicum aromas. Palate has firm acidity and presents as very young. Good
*Château Boyd-Cantenac. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant, pencil lead and quite opulent aromas. Structured tannins and firm palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Brane-Cantenac. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Floral, blackcurrant and brooding aroma. The palate has very high acid and somewhat angular tannins. Good to Very Good
Château d’Issan. 77% cabernet sauvignon and 23% merlot. Earthy, leathery aroma. Firm acidity and gentle balance on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château du Tertre. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 20% cabernet franc (possibly a typo). Pencil lead, refined blackcurrant aromas. High acidity on the palate, almost piquant. Good
Château Giscours. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Herbal, capsicum aroma. Firm acidity, green palate. Good to Very Good
Château Kirwan. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 36% merlot. Pencil lead, chocolate aroma. The palate is firm, structured with some bitter tannins. Good to Very Good
Château Lascombes. 50% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon. Earthy, ripe fruit aromas. Ripe, structured fruit on the palate, with good length. Very Good
Château Pouget. 58% cabernet sauvignon and 31% merlot. Floral and quite aromatic. Firm acidity, good length. Good to Very Good
Château Rauzan-Gassies. 70% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Restrained, neutral aroma. Structured, classic palate with good length. Very Good
Château Rauzan-Ségla. 56% cabernet sauvignon and 42% merlot. Glossy, oak aroma. Intense palate. Very Good
**Château Angélus. 50% merlot and 50% cabernet franc. This was the wine of the tasting. A seamless expression of blackcurrant and cedar. On the palate, lovely balance and phenomenal length. Outstanding
*Château Cheval Blanc. 55% merlot and 45% cabernet franc. Another outstanding wine, not surprisingly. More tobacco and red fruited aroma. Lovely balance and long length. Outstanding
Château Balestard La Tonnelle. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Tomato, red fruit aromas. Pleasant red fruit on the palate. Good
Château Bellevue. 100% merlot. Plums and soy aroma. Medium-firm tannins and plummy palate. Good to Very Good
Château Cap de Mourlin. 65% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Red fruit and cedar aroma. Very firm tannins and red fruits on the palate. Very Good
Château Corbin. 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc. Redcurrant, plum and spice aroma. Medium-firm tannins and red fruited palate. Good to Very Good
Château Grand Corbin. 70% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Restrained aroma of earth and attractive red fruits. Firm acidity and good length on the palate. Very Good
Château La Tour Figeac. 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. Earthy, blackcurrant generous aroma. Soy, red fruit, medium-long length and medium-firm tannins. Very Good
Château Laroze. 66% merlot and 29% cabernet franc. Pencil lead, red fruit aroma. Plush palate with great length. Very Good
*Château Troplong Mondot. 91% merlot and 7% cabernet sauvignon. Spiced blackberry aroma. The palate has saturated fruit, full flavour, great intensity and structure, cedar and long length. Outstanding
Château Trottevieille. 58% cabernet franc and 40% merlot. Aroma of smoke and leaf. Firm structure, leafy, good length. Good to Very Good
*Château Clinet. 90% merlot and 9% cabernet sauvignon. Aroma of soy, plum. Deep colour. Medium-firm tannins and structured palate. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Gazin. 95% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. Velvety aroma, tomato and red fruits too. Firm tannins, structured and good length. Very Good to Outstanding
*Château Nenin. 68% merlot and 32% cabernet franc. Plums, restrained yet rich aroma. The palate has pencil lead characters and is both opulent and regal, with good length on the finish. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Petit-Village. 72% merlot and 16% cabernet franc. Blackberry and spice aroma. Capsicum, structure and good length on the palate. Good to Very Good
Château Calon Ségur. 66% cabernet sauvignon and 13% cabernet franc. Ripe, blackcurrant, restrained aroma. High acid, structured palate with medium length. Good to Very Good
*Château Cos d’Estournel. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 33% merlot. Ripe, delicious aroma of blackcurrants and blackberry. Full tannins. Outstanding
*Château Montrose. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Ripe, cedar and blackcurrant aroma. Structured palate, full tannins and long length. Built to last. Outstanding
Château Beychevelle. 51% merlot and 39% cabernet sauvignon. Lovely aroma, pencil lead, blackcurrant, classic. Firm tannins, good balance and good length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lagrange. 76% cabernet sauvignon and 18% merlot. Capsicum and black fruit aroma. High acid, capsicum character but classic. Good
Château Langoa Barton. 54% cabernet sauvignon and 34% merlot. Muted aroma and palate. Seemed out of condition. Not rated
Château Leoville Barton. 83% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Pencil lead, gorgeous blackcurrant aroma. Firm tannins, good length. Very Good
*Château Léoville Marquis de Las Cases. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 11% cabernet franc. Blackcurrant, classic aroma. Palate has ripe, saturated fruit and great length and balance. Outstanding
Château Leoville Poyferre. 60% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot. Capsicum, blackcurrant, austere aroma. Palate with firm, structured tannins. Very Good
Château Talbot. 62% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot. Blackcurrant and gloss aroma. Firm tannins, somewhat acidic but classic. Good to Very Good
Château Batailley. 82% cabernet sauvignon and 15% merlot. Earthy aroma, brettanomyces? Capsicum, blackcurrant and acidity on the palate. Good for now
Château Croizet-Bages. 61% cabernet sauvignon and 37% merlot. Blackcurrant and capsicum aroma. Firm tannins and classic palate. Good to Very Good
Château Lynch Bages. 69% cabernet sauvignon and 26% merlot. Deep colour, blackcurrant aroma. Saturated fruit and great length on the palate. Very Good to Outstanding
Château Lynch-Moussas. 79% cabernet sauvignon and 21% merlot. Blackcurrant, earth and smoke aroma. Medium tannins and pleasant finish. Good
Château Pichon Baron. 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. Blackcurrant and refined fruit aroma. Great length, balance, plushness and firm tannins. A favourite, but slightly shaded by a couple of Pauillac wines this year. Very Good nonetheless
*Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 22% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined aroma, pencil lead aroma. Long length and lovely balance on the palate. Outstanding
*Château Pontet-Canet. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot. Blackcurrant, refined earthy aroma. Great length, structure, blackcurrant and tannins on the palate. Outstanding
Château Doisy Daëne. 85% sémillon and 14.5% sauvignon blanc. Spice, marmalade aroma. Not particularly viscous. Fresh. Good to Very Good
Château Suduiraut. 95% sémillon and 5% sauvignon blanc. Vanilla, marmalade aroma. Long length, full body but grace and balance on the palate. Very Good
*Château d’Yquem. Last, but not least. 80% sémillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. Marmalade, spice, complex aroma. Viscous, full length, full body and ultra unctuous palate. Outstanding
With the 2019 harvest underway, I spent the morning in the winery at Helen & Joey in the Yarra Valley. Here are a few vineyard photographs and observations.
|Photo above: East-west planted pinot noir, looking to the west.|
|Grafted merlot vines planted on north-south facing rows, and nearing harvest.|
|Phylloxera continues its march through the Yarra Valley. Replanting in a neighbouring vineyard in the distance on the left, together with seemingly declining vigour in the vineyard in the distance on the right.|
|No viticultural comment, but a nice view from the office. Mount Dandenong is the peak in the distance.|
This is a very good merlot from Shaw Wines and the Canberra district. The aroma reminds of cedar, black fruits, dusty plums and soy. The palate continues the cedar character, but is balanced by ripe fruit and medium-long length on the finish. Approachable now, it should improve with a further five years in the cellar. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%. Price: $28. Website: shawwines.com.au. Source: Sample.
Mission Hill have fashioned an outstanding cabernet blend here from the Okanagan Valley in Canada. It’s a classic Bordeaux style blend of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 16% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot. Perhaps more than any other wine I have tried to date, this wine showcases the region’s considerable potential and puts Canadian red wine on the map. The colour is deep and the aromas remind of blackcurrants and tobacco leaf. The contribution from 15 months in French oak is well judged. The palate is medium bodied, with savoury and firm tannins, bright fruit and the length on the finish long. 36 barrels produced. Rating: Outstanding. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $80+. Website: www.missionhillwinery.com.
This is a sound wine at less than $10 from the Okanagan Valley. A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, it has a simple fruity aroma of red berries. The palate is dry, with some soft tannins, gentle fruit and the finish in balance. A safe choice at this price. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $9. Website: n/a.
Villa Antinori’s Toscano Rosso continues to be a great value wine. The 2015 vintage is quite the blend, featuring sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, syrah and merlot. Yet it retains a sense of place, and is identifiably Italian in style in the glass. The 2015 vintage is deeply coloured in the glass, with aromas of earth, blackcurrant and cedar. The palate is savoury and has good balance and length. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 13.5%. Price: $20+. Website: www.antinori.it.