12 Dec Understanding Merlot
Merlot is notably softer than Cabernet Sauvignon particularly when grown in warmer areas. It is known to be of lighter colour than Shiraz and is generally considered an early drinking red.
Merlot does well in heavier clays and better in poorly drained soils than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the most planted grape in Bordeaux with Cabernet Sauvignon only dominating in the areas with well-drained soils.
It is an excellent blending partner with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec producing the wonderful Bordeaux blends. “Château Pétrus is the most famous wine of Pomerol and today the most expensive in Bordeaux” it is comprised of “95 per cent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc.” (Janis Robinson, Oxford Companion to Wine, 1999)
Orange Merlot is quite intense in flavour and colour often showing some rough tannins and even herbaceous characters for the first three years. But with patience it develops into a very attractive, intense red wine with roundness but not the soft easy drinking wine associated with Merlots grown in warmer climates (think Sideways movie).
Robert Geddes in his book “A Good Nose and Great Legs” notes that Merlot requires plenty of sunshine but little heat”… enter Orange.
Our high elevation also gives us a high UV radiation index which contributes to the intensity of Orange Merlots. Most wines have an optimum drinking window and I think Merlot has a little narrower window than many reds.
Patina 2005 Merlot has entered the early part of that window and I expect it to peak in a couple years but remain very good drinking for at least another five years.
It is a lovely example of cool climate Merlot, with intensity, smooth length and finesse.