Because Merlots are said to lack complexity, straight Merlot varietals aren’t considered ‘great’ wines (by those who believe themselves connoisseurs). Well, that’s a matter for debate, particularly as one of the world’s most famous wines, Chateau Petrus, is comprised almost entirely of Merlot. And when combined with another grape, Cabernet or Shiraz for example, the result can be an extremely robust, complex and elegant wine.
One of the primary reasons Merlot is regaining popularity is because it goes terrifically well with so many different foods. Additionally, the wine’s soft, fruity flavour is approachable for red wine novices and acceptable to many consumers, even those usually more likely to favour white.
So what are some of Australia’s more popular Merlot brands? Let’s start with the straight Merlot varietals.
Lindeman’s Merlot, McGuigan Black Label Merlot, Taylors Merlot and Yellow Tail Merlot are all delicious straight Merlot wines at a reasonable price. In general they are easy drinking with a medium body and berry fruit flavours.
When it comes to blends, the most popular is Cabernet Merlot, and that’s for a very good reason. Cabernet provides the blend’s robust structure, its dark-fruit flavours, its tannins and acids. Adding Merlot provides a softening, a lightening of the palate and a fruiter balance. Some of our most popular Cabernet Merlot blends include; Annies Lane Cabernet Merlot (Clare Valley), Brands Laira Cabernet Merlot (Coonawarra), Catching Thieves Cabernet Merlot (Margaret River), Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cabernet Merlot (Barossa Valley), Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot (Margaret River) and Wyndham Bin 888 Cabernet Merlot (Hunter Valley).
Blending three great grapes together – Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot – results in an even more complex wine. Adding to the flavours of the Cabernet and Merlot grapes, Shiraz brings spicy and savoury notes to balance the fruit sweetness. Popular favourites include; Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (Hunter Valley), Wirra Wirra Church Block Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Shiraz (McLaren Vale) and Wynns Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (Coonawarra).
Bear in mind that unlike some other reds, Merlots have a relatively short life span; they’re meant to be drunk young and don’t need cellaring. The blended varieties (above) however, can be put down for several years and will improve with age.