Wine: Is Merlot set to be the Chardonnay of reds? Anthony Rose investigates

The late James Rogers, one of this generation's best wine tasters, used to think our enjoyment of wine would have been considerably enhanced if the New World had adopted Bordeaux's Merlot grape instead of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a typically heretical notion. Despite its numerical superiority as Bordeaux's most widely planted grape variety, Merlot has until recently always come second to Cabernet Sauvignon.

In a decade, though, the New World focus on grape variety has led to a pecking order of glamorous and not- so-glamorous grapes in which Merlot now features more prominently than ever before. Despite the ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon and the charms of France's other two classic grapes, Pinot Noir and Syrah, Merlot's attraction lies in its immediate appeal. And now that the world's thirst for red wine has outstripped the demand for white, it is set to fulfil a similar role to Chardonnay's for white wine.

The phenomenon is essentially marketing-led. America in particular, has gone overboard for Merlot ("Mrr-lo"). In their desperation to supply the market, big companies are falling over themselves to track down supplies from anywhere. Raids on stocks in Chile, in the Languedoc, wherever it grows in fact, are often controversially combined with labelling cunningly designed to disguise the fact that the origins of the wine are not Californian.

That Merlot is relatively bland, and sometimes plain boring, doesn't seem to matter. On a value-for-money level, Merlot delivers the most flavour from Chile at the moment, the least from California. Between the two, it's promising in the Languedoc, parts of northern Italy, Navarra, and even Bordeaux itself. In fact Bordeaux, with the biggest plantings of Merlot in the world, has the greatest potential. Ironically, because of the French preoccupation with vineyard, its appellation system refuses to allow the M-word on the label.

Mellow Merlots

1996 Richemont Old Vine Merlot Reserve Vin de Pays d'Oc, pounds 4.49, Safeway. Sweet wood aromas and chocolatey Merlot fruitiness combine in spicy Languedoc red made in a mini-Saint-Emilion style.

1997 Errazuriz Merlot El Descanso Vineyard Curico, pounds 5.99, Tesco, Wine Cellar, Berkeley Wines, Victoria Wine, Thresher, Fuller's, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up. Deep purple, with the scent of herbaceous borders, an undertone of green pepper and a deeper, sweeter core of juicy blackcurrant fruit.

1996 La Palma Reserve Merlot pounds 6.99, Fuller's. With a touch of woodsmoke, this is a plush, powerful Chilean red with plum and blackcurrant on a firm backbone of tannin and substantial alcohol.

1996 Temple Bruer Reserve Merlot pounds 9.99, selected Tesco's. Distinctively Aussie, with aromatic notes of vanilla and eucalyptus complemented by velvety-textured plum-like fruitiness and polished oak treatment

White of the week

1996 Artadi, Vinas de Gain, Rioja Crianza pounds 5.99, Majestic Wine. With few exceptions, barrel-fermentation is better suited to Rioja's Viura grape than the traditional style of white Rioja, which is aged, but not fermented, in oak. The modern treatment here produces a yellow-gold white with ripe, honeyed aromas and a rich dried fruits character freshened by Viura's lemony tang.

Red of the week

1996 Mas Collet, Tarragona pounds 4.99, Majestic Wine. This polished red from Celler de Capcanes in north-eastern Spain is distinctly Catalonian, a pure, well-proportioned red using Garnacha, Tempranillo and a dash of Carinena and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of red fruits and the pure berry flavours are well rounded by a subtle oak-infused sweetness.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ETL Developer / Consultant

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Primary supply teachers required in Stowmarket

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week