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September 6, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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As the ancient saying goes, “when I think of Merlot, a few words come to mind.” This variety is one of the world’s most popular, and it is one of the principle blends in Bordeaux wine where it is the most abundant grape. In New Zealand, second to Pinot Noir, it is the most planted red wine grape with approximately 1371 hectares of vine in the ground.

It is rumoured that the name Merlot is derived from the Old French word for ‘young blackbird’, which probably alludes to the colour of the grape. Merlot is relatively easy on the ripening scale and its large berries and thin skins mean that the wine is generally less tannic, and can be tucked into sooner.

Merlot’s ‘easy drinking’ nature, market saturation, and presence in terrible movies such as Sideways has seen the variety cop a fair amount of flack from many of the worlds ‘wine buffs’. Don’t let this become a barrier on your highway though, as there are, without a doubt, many fine examples out there.

Being one of the softer red wine varieties, Merlot is versatile when it comes to food matching. Recently I had a glass while nibbling on a Moro bar. Deemed “loose as” by many, I actually found the combination to be both lavishly cute, and rewarding. This aside, Merlot tends to work the best with red meat and pork dishes.

Wine of the Week:

This week’s wine of the week is solid value for money and is the Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 ($13-15). The great thing about this wine is that, given its price, it isn’t just a tinny medicinal fruit bomb. Once in the glass, the wine gives off fantastic black fruit aromas as well as complex cedary oak and chocolate. Having had a couple of years in the bottle now, on the palate it is silky smooth and across the board it really does reflect the high quality and concentrated 2007 Hawkes Bay vintage.

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