Posts Tagged ‘diego murillo’

“I don’t like Merlot” Are you Sure?

March 30, 2010

Someone said once “A truth is a lie convened upon by many.”  (Just learned that someone was Lenin)…I don’t know if I concur fully with the idea, but got to say that in the case of Merlot it really hit it right on the nose. Back in the 90’s, when Merlot became popular in Northamerica, nobody seemed to object to the velvety varietal. As with any other wine, there are good and not so good versions, so condemning all the wines made from the grape just because some (or many) were pukeable, doesn’t ring right. But that is exactly what happened. The infamous movie Sideways was “cool” and cool was to order “anything but Merlot” (ditto for Chardonnay) and Pinot Noir became all the rage. In reality, Merlot still sold -and sells- a lot more than Pinot Noir. Ours is a culture of image. One wants to be seen as cool, knowledgeable, attractive. So, all the sudden ordering Merlot made you exactly into the opposite of desirable. Some people –especially those who don’t know an awful lot about wine but pretend to- repeated this mantra until it became “true.”

It is funny to think that actually, when it comes to good and not so good varietals, it is way easier to get a “good” Merlot under 30 dollars than a “good” Pinot Noir under 40. In fact, a lot of cheaper Pinots are not at all “true to type.” They taste like anything but. Even funnier is that most people –I say this without statistical back up but have no doubt about it- most people prefer full bodied wines. And this is not new. Back at the time when the movie shook the foundations of the North American wine culture, full bodied wines were already more popular. So, how do you end up drinking Pinot Noir when you really like bigger wines? We humans are a funny bunch, entirely illogical. Anyway, let’s go back to the point, which is, Merlot.

The variety originates in Bordeaux, where is the ideal complement to bony Cabernet Sauvignon to create all those legendary wines that are so far from reach –pocket depth wise- that most of us may never taste them. At that level, where appellations like Pomerol and St. Emilion shine, Merlot yields wines of tremendous richness, pronounced flavor intensity and with the typical velvety texture, provided by properly tamed tannins, round and smooth.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend megabucks and buy a legend to taste a good, juicy, soft Merlot. There are several varietals made in the new world (and old) that will provide a good idea of what Merlot can do when well made. Let’s take a look at what is available here in Vancouver.

Thelema Merlot. South Africa. $40. Opulent, dense, will leave you breathless. Not sure whether there is a production/import problem but it is hard to spot these days. If you see one, grab it.

Marques de Casa Concha. Chile. $30. A dash of Carmenere makes it deliciously smoky spicy.

Stimson. Washington State. $18. Medium bodied, easy driking and soft on the tannin. A good entry level by Chateau St. Michelle.

Church & Estate. British Columbia $25. Merlot is one of the black grapes that do really well in British Columbia. This gold medal winner is truly delicious, with a sweet-fruit entry and nicely managed oak.

Sonoma Vineyards. California. $18. At this point you wonder. How can they make it so good at this price? Notice also that the price went down three dollars in the past few months.

Velvet Devil. Washington State. $28. Big, assertive in its fruit forwardness. A great example of what the reds from our immediate neighbor to the south can do.

Woodbridge. California. $13.99. A house wine in many restaurants in Vancouver, yummy and juicy.

Bouchard Pere et Fils. France. $11.99. Not from Burgundy, where a Bouchard Pinot would set you back a couple hundred. The French powerhouse makes this one in the sunny south part of the country.

Diego Murillo. Argentina. $10.99. Organic, tasty and coming all the way from Patagonia. Doesn’t get better for budget Merlots.

Homework: find a Pinot at the price points above and see which one –blind tasting-  you like better.

Ciao for Now


Budget Fall Wines

October 20, 2009

In good and bad times it is always nice to find good quality, inexpensive vino. Customers are always looking for a bargain, aka “bang for your buck” and I have tasted innumerable cheapies to separate the grain from the chaff. Prices vary greatly in Metro Vancouver, so be sure to buy your wines in stores where you will get the lower tags.

Starting with whites, I recently found two wonderful Chardonnays. The first one hails from Southern France louislatour_chardand is produced by world known winehouseLouis LaTour. The 2007 Ardeche Chardonnay is a delightful unoaked version, which has been allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. Light, slightly creamy, with touches of tropical fruit, I enjoyed this one a lot and since I posted a shelf talker many a customer has become a fan. It sells for 13.99 at Everything Wine (North Vancouver) and LDB stores (check website for branches that carry it. Some cold beer and wine stores sell this product for up to 23.99 so beware.

From Southern Italy, in the Puglia region, we have the Tormaresca Chardonnay (2006, 2007). Light and 3348-tormaresca-chardonnay-500minerally this wine offers great value. I think this one to be unoaked or only slightly oaked. At 15.99, it has become one of my favorite whites.

Puglia also brings us an excellent red, perhaps on the top ten under ten dollars. The Paiara blend of paiara Cabernet Sauvignon and Negroamaro grapes is round, balanced and persistent, surprisingly so for a wine so inexpensive. LDB stores and Everything Wine sell the product for 9.99 and once you taste it you will probably make it a staple for weekdays. My woman recently made a delicious Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette, Spanish style. Click link for recipe) for brunch and this medium-light red was the perfect companion.

From the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, venomous critters and man-eating sharks, the 2006 Rock Art Cabernet Merlot is sensational for the price. Everything wine carries the product for 12.99 but it had it as special during the Thanksgiving long weekend, selling scores of cases at 8.99, an absolute steal. Even at 12.99 this little wine is serious and convincing, with a solid fruit front, balance and a bit of structure that suggests that the 3 years spent in bottle added a little quality.

To finish this ripasso, let’s go to Patagonia, Argentina, and taste the 2007 Diego Murillo Merlot. Organic, diegomurillovelvety and full flavored, this wine is perfect for the nostalgic, sweet emotions that only the season of falling leaves can arouse. Dark and deep, this little jewel by Humberto Canale winery is well worth the 10.99 you pay for it at LDB and Everything Wine.

Enjoy the rest of the season and brace yourselves for overwhelming, rainy, grey November.