Merlot – NZ’s best value red

When the lead character in the American wine film, Sideways, declared a hatred for Merlot sales of this previously popular wine plummeted. Now winemakers who make and label their wines as Merlot are having a tough time in the marketplace.

Before you jump on the “I’m so over Merlot” bandwagon, consider this. Merlot is the most planted grape variety in the prestigious Bordeaux wine region. It also makes up around 95% of one of the world’s most expensive wines, Chateau Petrus (tastings). The average price of a bottle of 2005 Petrus is a reassuringly expensive NZ$6122.54 according to the world’s leading wine search website,

New Zealand also makes great Merlot, especially when the grapes are grown in the Gimblett Gravels district of Hawke’s Bay. Downward market pressure makes even the best of them look like bargains. Things might have been different if Peter Jackson had made Merlot the favourite tipple of Frodo Baggins.

Mills Reef Reserve Merlot 2008 – $24.95

Intense and fruity wine with plum, dark berry, spice and toasty oak flavours. It has a structure that’s soft enough to appeal to Pinot Noir drinkers but has enough grip to put a smile on the face of those who love gutsier reds. This wine has character and class. A thoroughly good drink at a decent price. – view on

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Merlot 2008 – $29.95

This seamless, polished Merlot is a product of careful viticulture, a favourable vintage and impeccable winemaking. Plum and berry fruit flavours with a suggestion of wild herbs, new leather and classy, spicy oak. Good now, even better in a year or two. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Jul 2010.

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