Wine Spectator has revealed their 2017 Wine of the Year as part of the much-anticipated Top 100 List.
Topping the chart this year is Duckhorn Napa Valley Three Palms Vineyard 2014 MERLOT. Take that Miles, you sad little man. (Paul Giamatti, Sideways 2004)
Movie Clip: Sideways “I’m Not Drinking Any F#$&ing Merlot!”
Merlot is no longer the underdog of the California wine industry
In a world where art imitates life (or is it the other way around?), the movie Sideways really did a number on Merlot, particularly in California, causing people everywhere to search for the perfect Pinot Noir while disregarding Merlot completely. Rotten Tomatoes reviewer Mikeizz even said, “This was a great movie. You’ll never drink Merlot again!” Sad news for the Duckhorn family who put their entire lives into making Merlot. Fortunately, someone else believed in the power of quality Merlot. Ten years ago, the Duckhorns sold controlling interest in the winery for about $250 million. Even so, I bet they’re doing a happy dance today, too.
Why We Love Merlot Wines
What is it about this grape that has me, and soon to be countless others, so enamoured? It may surprise you know that Merlot is one of the top planted grape varieties in the world which means you’ll find a variety of styles and quality levels. Merlot will usually fall into one of two main style categories. In warm to hot climates the wines offer lots of juicy black fruit, medium to full body, high alcohol and low acidity. In moderate to cool climates the wines have more restraint with soft tannins, medium body, alcohol and acidity and an elegance characterized by red fruit and herbaceous notes. Depending on the winemaker’s use of oak, you can also get everything from subtle spice, hints of cedar chocolate cake mix, vanilla cola and coconut. This shows how varied Merlot can be and just like so many other wines, you can’t judge all Merlot by one style or one region or one producer or one price point.
4 Top New World Merlot Wines You’ll Love
With all this media attention, the likelihood of you finding a bottle of this particular Duckhorn is pretty slim. So here are some of my favourite New World Merlot offerings:
I fell in love with Merlot all over again in July 2017 after a tasting with John Williams of Frog’s Leap Napa Valley winery. I was fortunate enough to compare the 2014 with the 1993. If I didn’t already know what I was tasting, I would have sworn the ’93 was aged Right Bank Bordeaux. It was great to see the ageing potential of this wine as we often go straight to Cabernet Sauvignon and Old World wines for ageing and mistakenly by-pass New World Merlot.
Although the Okanagan Valley is considered a cool climate wine region, grapes grown in the southern part of the valley see plenty of warmth and sunshine. This provides ideal ripening conditions for Merlot and offers more body and fruit than you might expect in the wine. Production is low on this offering from Blasted Church at just over 900 cases and the fruit is from three vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos, including grapes from the estate vineyard. This makes for a wine with structure as well as rich fruit bordering on jammy or stewed berries. The use of both French and American oak gives it some cocoa characteristics with a little baking spice. Overall, this wine is a gem.
Columbia Valley Merlot is a category all its own. Having visited this region in 2016, I was surprised to see each flight I sampled had the Merlot placed last, after Cabernet Sauvignon. Most tastings would have put the Cab last but that’s not the way it works in Washington. Merlot is a power house there and the Northstar is no exception. Super concentrated flavours of ripe plum leading into a spicy finish. Lay this one down for a while, it’s got a lot of life ahead of it.
Chile offers unique flavours and outstanding value you don’t often find in other parts of the world. On the nose is prominent spice, jalapeno peppers and ripe, dark fruit. The Gran Reserva has been aged in barrel, so toasted notes and silky tannins complement the rich flavours of mulberry pie. The best part is you’ll spend a lot less money for this beauty than other Merlot of the same quality.