Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving!

Remember that scene in Sideways? Well in our latest class we learned about Merlot and I can understand Miles argument for this rather simple grape. Merlot, on it's own, is an easy drinking (boring) wine with either red fruit flavors like strawberry or in hotter climates black fruit. But it lacks intensity, tannins and acidity compared to other grapes and needs a bit of blending in order to take it to the next level. The irony in the film is that Miles' prized 1961 Cheval Blanc is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Image from

Things I learned:
  • Typical flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon are black fruits, herbaceous notes and oak is frequently used adding things like smoke, vanilla, and coffee
  • Merlot is less intense compared to Cab Sauv, but produces more alcohol and body because the grape is fatter. It also like oak
  • These grapes are often blended together because their like yin and yang, their distinct characteristics balance each other out

With Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines are often blended but one grape will dominate. In France, you have to know which grapes dominate within each region. With New World wines, it's written on the label. The two Merlot we tried were nice, but I much preferred the the two Cabernet. We had an '06 Chateau Batailley Grand Cru Classe (£39.99) and a '09 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley (£19.99). They were richer and sweeter compared to Merlot and our teacher mentioned that the '06 Chateau Batailley will taste amazing in 10-20 years. Hub and I are thinking we should invest in a couple of bottles and hold on!

We then went on to try two Sauvignon Blancs, one from New Zealand and one from the Loire Valley. Both were very good and inexpensive. I can feel my senses developing a bit more and I smelled fresh water in the '11 Domain Girault Sancerre Le Chene Du Roy (£11.99) and it tasted kind of grassy mixed with green apples. The '12 Wild South Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£12.99) had a unique combination of citrus, peppers and tropical fruits.

After class, one of my classmates introduced me to this cool app called Vivino and basically you take a photo of a label and it immediately gives you a brief about the wine, but more importantly where you can buy it. Cool, noh? I was impressed and Hub immediately downloaded it onto his phone.
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