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Merlot is the way to go says wine expert

Fri 31 Jul 2009 15:22


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Merlot has a soft and fruity taste, and is generally a really good wine.

But a lot of this type of wine tends to taste the same, so Tom Cannavan takes a look at a variety of wines which are a bit different.

Here are his top Merlot picks of the week – all of them have been blended with other grapes to make the wine a little more interesting.

1. The Co-operative Explorer's Vineyard Rosé 2008, priced at £6.49 at The Co-operative
This wine is a highly unusual blend – and in fact the only one Tom has heard of – of the red grape Merlot and the white grape Riesling, that would be illegal anywhere in Europe. But it's made in New Zealand, and this blend produces an off-dry red fruited wine, which has the zip and zing of the Riesling.

This unusual wine has flavours of roses and rosehips, green peppers and redcurrants, and it goes well with dishes including fish and seafood. It also goes excellently with picnics.

2. De Martino '347 Vineyards' Carmenere Reserva 2007, priced at £7.49 (or buy two and the price goes down to £5.99 each) at Majestic.
This is an alternative to Merlot. Carmenere is a relatively recent discovery - or rather re-discovery in Chile. For decades the Carmenere vine was misidentified as Merlot. As a result, much of the wine sold as Chilean Merlot 90s was in fact made from the entirely different grape, Carmenere.

The vines originally came from Bordeaux in France in the 19th century, and most authorities thought the grape had more or less died out completely before it was rediscovered thriving in Chile.

This tasty wine goes well with dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese, as well as fillet steaks or duck breast served with a cherry sauce.

It has flavours of vanilla, chocolate and blackcurrants.
3. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Saint-Emilion 2007, priced at £8.99 at Sainsbury's.
This wine is a blend with 80 per cent Merlot, and it tastes like a really good typical style Merlot.

St Emilion – where this wine hails from - is one of the regions of Bordeaux in France, where Merlot is the dominant grape, although there is a little Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend too.

The famous Bordeaux aroma of pencil shavings or cedar comes from the combination of the older oak barrels in which the wine is aged, and the soils of Bordeaux which give an earthy, mineral quality to the wines.

This wine has flavours of plums, cherries and pencil shavings, and acts as a lovely accompaniment to a Sunday roast, game and hard cheeses.

To find out more about wine on Tom Cannavan's own wine pages, visit

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