Ever since the release of the hit 2004 film Sideways the fortunes of the noble Merlot grape have fallen drastically. While unfortunate for the producers it has been a great boon for the lover of merlot based wines. Today many people think of Merlot as the exaggerated over ripe, fruit forward mass produced wine available in every supermarket in America. While these wines can certainly be enjoyable and are an easy grab for a Wednesday night dinner at home, merlot can be so much more. On that note, it is important to remember where this grape first flourished and was nourished to make some of the most highly regarded wines in the world. That place is called Bordeaux and Merlots throne is more specifically in Pomerol. Pomerol is well known as home to Petrus, one of the most famous and expensive wines in the world. Petrus is in most vintages comprised entirely of merlot with a few percentage points of cabernet franc added in vintages that were particularly good for that varietal. While these wines are the very height of quality and elegance they can also reflect that in the price point. This is due largely in part to the very small size of the region, under 2.5 square miles, and the correspondingly high demand for its limited production. However abutting Pomerol is the satellite appellation of Lalande de Pomerol which is much larger and makes wines of a similar style.
One of my favorites is the 2009 Domaine Des Sabines, from Lalande de Pomerol, at $29.99, it represents an excellent value and a true taste of the region. This Merlot dominated wines shows notes of bright red fruit balanced with baking spices and that signature Cabernet Franc note of earthiness. This wine represents real value and coming from the great 2009 vintage, known for ripeness, it is most definitely ready for immediate enjoyment.
Going into Pomerol proper is the wonderful value that is Chateau Lafleur-Gazin , located between the two superstars Chateau Lafleur and Chateau Gazin and a fraction of the price of these wines at $44.99 per bottle. According to Robert Parker, “This masculine, muscular style of Pomerol displays a dark ruby/purple color and a distinct earthy profile, with notes of meat, herbs, plum sauce and black currants. It is medium-bodied and ripe, but probably the most rustic of all the wines from the house of Jean-Pierre Moueix.”
Often times one can find real value in wines from great producers in ‘lesser’ vintages, Chateau Feytit-Clinet 2008 is one such example. At $69.99 a bottle it is certainly not entry level but it is still below average prices for such acclaimed vintages as 2009 or 10. The reason that these chateau can make such strong offerings even in ‘lesser’ vintages is because of extremely strict selection process when harvesting the grapes. This allows them to make a far smaller quantity without losing quality. Robert Parker gave it a whopping 93 points, “This stunning 2008 (14% natural alcohol) is composed of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Only 1,300 cases were produced of this dense plum/purple-hued offering. It exhibits a big, sweet nose of blackberries, black currants, licorice, smoke and forest floor. The lovely perfume is followed by a medium to full-bodied wine displaying sweet, velvety tannins as well as an endearing personality. It begs to be consumed now and over the next 10-15 years.”
Finally I would like to include a wine for indulgence, coming in at $124.99, the 2009 Chateau La Fleur de Gay. This wine made from 100% Merlot is a fantastic example of Pomerol at its finest. Robert Parker scored this wine 95 points, “As always, there is an elegance to the La Fleur de Gay, but the tell-tale flowery, raspberry jam, and blueberry pie notes jump from the glass along with hints of graphite and truffle. Deep, rich, full-bodied and textured, with sweet tannin and a stunning elegance and purity, this beauty that can be approached now or cellared for 20-25 years.”
Hopefully this little blog will inspire you to take a walk among the aristocracy of Merlot and shake the outdated notion of over doctored fruit bomb Merlots which have perhaps unfairly marred the good name of the noble Merlot grape.
Bill A., Beltramo’s Wine Consultant