Al­most blue-black in colour and vel­vety on the palate, mag­i­cal mer­lot is one of the world’s most ver­sa­tile va­ri­etals, ac­cord­ing to R James Mullen

Thailand Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Lo­cal wine guru R James Mullen sings the praises of ver­sa­tile mer­lot, an of­tendis­missed va­ri­etal but nev­er­the­less a grape that is one of the stal­warts of red wine pro­duc­tion around the world

Look­ing for a red wine that seems to go with nearly ev­ery­thing? Mer­lot is one of your best bets for gala an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tions or ca­sual pool par­ties. Lighter in those as­trin­gent tan­nins than caber­net sau­vi­gnon with medium body and flavours as­so­ci­ated with black­ber­ries, choco­late and hints of cof­fee, it is a nat­u­ral pair­ing for ev­ery­thing from beef and pork to chicken and even grilled salmon or tuna.

As most wine drinkers will re­call, mer­lot took what might be de­scribed as a blow to the so­lar plexus af­ter the re­lease of the film Side­ways in 2004. Through the thinly veiled de­scrip­tions of women the male co-stars had dated, the rom-com fea­tured an on­go­ing den­i­gra­tion of mer­lot as pre­dictably bor­ing com­pared to scin­til­lat­ing and chal­leng­ing pinot noir. Sales of mer­lot dropped sig­nif­i­cantly dur­ing the next year while those of pinot noir made sub­stan­tial gains, at least in Amer­ica.

In fact, mer­lot sales had been grad­u­ally de­clin­ing glob­ally prior to Side­ways as con­sumers opted to try dif­fer­ent wine va­ri­eties from Ar­gentina, Chile and South Africa, as well as more pinot noir. That said, de­spite the anom­aly of a de­crease in the growth rate of sales, mer­lot re­mains the most widely planted red grape in France and has in­creased acreage world­wide due in large part to its early ripen­ing and re­li­ably pre­dictable flavours and bal­ance.

Mer­lot usu­ally con­sti­tutes 90 per cent—if not the to­tal grape va­ri­ety—in wines from the famed right bank Bordeaux prop­er­ties of St Emil­ion and Pomerol, with pre­mium priced Chateaux Petrus, Au­sone, Che­val Blanc and An­gelus among them. A bot­tle of Petrus to sa­lute this an­niver­sary is­sue of Thai­land Tatler would cer­tainly bring smiles all around, pro­vided the buyer can muster a smile af­ter pick­ing up the 86,000 baht per bot­tle tab! These are truly col­lec­tor qual­ity wines pro­duced in very small quan­ti­ties with prices among the most pre­cious on the planet.

More down-to-earth is the vast ma­jor­ity of mer­lot made for ev­ery­day en­joy­ment at prices that don’t re­quire mort­gag­ing your house. Cal­i­for­nia leads mer­lot pro­duc­tion in the US with brands from Beaulieu, Frog’s Leap, Shafer and Duck­horn among oth­ers avail­able lo­cally. These are wines redo­lent in berry and cherry fruit flavours, with enough body and bal­ance to lend plea­sure to a host of food choices from burg­ers to grilled se­abass. Bet­ter yet, many are priced in the 1,000 - 1,500 baht range!

Fi­nally, please do re­mem­ber that red wines are made and stored at cel­lar tem­per­a­ture, which means 16°C to 18°C. That’s the tem­per­a­ture at which they should be served— not so-called room tem­per­a­ture. En­joy!

VALUE PROPO­SI­TION While the top mer­lots can com­mand prices run­ning into the high tens of thou­sands of baht,there are many la­bels out there that can be en­joyed for much more mod­est prices

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