The Year of Merlot?
Craggy Range (tastings) winemaker, Matt Stafford, was so enthusiastic about his 2013 red wines that he invited a group of critics to taste some of the component for Sophia (tastings) before they have been blended. “2013 is the year of Merlot” he declared with impressive conviction. The Merlot component of Sophia certainly supported Matt’s claim.
I’ve now tasted a handful of Hawke’s Bay Merlot from 2013 and I have to confess they are a mixed bunch. At best they are very good some are over-ripe and excessively jammy while others are over-laden with oak.
My favourite so far is the intensely rich and surprisingly drinkable Mills Reef 2013 Elspeth Merlot $49 (96 points – tasting). The wine is full of concentrated dried fruit flavours that might easily have become jammy if they hadn’t been spliced together with fine ripe tannins. Selaks Founders 2013 Merlot $39.99 (95 points – tasting) is slightly less concentrated, but has more energy with brighter, more focused fruit flavours.
For sheer drinkability Mills Reef 2013 Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot $25 (95 points – tasting) probably deserves first place, although in head-to-head combat it rated third. It has cellaring potential I suppose, but I really can’t imagine it getting much better than it is right now.
For sheer good value it’s hard to go past the fruit-focused and slightly spicy HaHa 2014 Merlot $16.99 (92 points – tasting) from another very promising vintage. At that price someone’s having a laugh.