Well, being on half price offer (£4.49 from £8.99) was a good start (offer ends today!). Also, I just returned from a trip to France so it seemed time. And finally, it was my friend's 50th this week, so I didn't like to disappoint him. Merlot's a grape I used to enjoy back in the 90s, particularly examples from Ticino in Switzerland, after I graduated from Pinot Noir there. It's an easy red to drink - uncomplicated, and perhaps the exact opposite to Pinot Noir! For some reason, I moved on, probably after some rather over-priced and unexciting Californian versions, and it's extremely bad publicity in the film Sideways. Perhaps I was too hasty.
Merlot after all, is one of the key grapes in Bordeaux's finest wines - including some of the most expensive in the world, and this one is a bargain, so was it any good?
What does it taste like? My first taste left me a little unsure if it was smooth enough for me. I ate some salted crisps - salt and wine tend to be friends, and suddenly this was smooth and fruity. I had only one glass, and went back to the bottle the next night (I vacuum pumped it, rather than resealing with the screwtop). The wine tasted just as fresh the next evening - according the bottle you can have it open for 2 days, but I doubt it would last that long.
It's medium bodied but feels light compared to heavy shirazes I've been drinking lately, and it's smooth and easy to drink. It's got good full on ripe plum flavours and some hints of spice are mentioned on the label. I was thinking liquorice, but it could equally be pepper.
Mr Purple Teeth felt it was at least as good as a basic claret, and surprisingly didn't find it too thin! He found dark fruit and was impressed at the (half price) price point.
If you like gutsy full bodied wines, this probably isn't for you, but if you want something that's easy to quaff and fruity with something more, then give it a go. As long as you get it at a discounted price.
As one of the two who convinced me to feature this wine, Marie puts it like this:
So what are you waiting for? The half price offer expires today!
First up, the Viognier: The Crusher from Napa's Sebastiani winemaker (a Zinfandel hero of mine) came from my good friends at Alfred the Grape in Marlow. It was the last bottle left on the shelf and that's always a good sign as these guys are keen to recommend their in store treasures.
At £9.99 it was a bargain compared to a Condrieu of a similar quality. If you like rich creamy chardonnays and are partial to an Alsace Gewurztraminer, I'd recommend trying this wine, or this grape if you haven't already. There's plenty of viscosity and creamy texture that you get from big oaked Chards, but none of the dairy flavours. This has a real floral quality and hints of peach and pineapple. The warmer it gets from the fridge, the more it emanates flowers, violets and perfumes. I paired it with a roast chicken and my gut feel is that if you love roast parsnips you're going to be a sucker for Viognier.
Mr Purple Teeth was sure he'd not enjoy it but after 2 sips he was smitten and asking me to buy another bottle. (£9.99)
As regular readers will know, Mr Purple Teeth hasn't been a fan of Pinot Noir and it's been our long term wine battle ground, so I felt it was good to get this as a Christmas gift and enjoy drinking it myself. I'd enjoyed several Willamette Pinot Noirs in DC recently and was happy to have the opportunity of a quiet weekend at home to enjoy some more.
Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, Mr Purple Teeth was intrigued by the darker colour of this wine than some Pinots he's seen. He decided to give it a try, and for the first time I think it's safe to say he absolutely loved it. So much so that he even enjoyed it with roast beef, a dish he'd more often than not pair with a Bordeaux or Malbec. So what makes these Oregon Pinot Noirs different? Normally, I imagine Pinot Noir will taste/smell strongly of strawberry. There's clearly been some strawberry fruit here at some time, but there's a good 5 years of age in this wine and it's picked up some lovely flavours from the oak: vanilla for example. And though there's good acitdity and tannin here, the wine is really well balanced, rounded and smooth to drink. Quite simply, I was sad when it was gone.
Oddly, I ended up sitting with a meal and a glass of each of this and the Viognier in front of me and together they made quite a pair. The aromatic, perfumed character of the Viognier brought out some of the fruit and velvetiness of the Pinot Noir. They both stood up to broccoli, brussell sprouts and sun dried tomatoes: foods which would generally leave me quivering at making a wine recommendation. If you feel like going out of your way, spending a little more than usual, or trying something different, please seek out these wines from the independent wine sellers mentioned and enjoy!
(Next week's Wine of the Week will be Rosso de Puglia at £5.99 from Marks and Spencer)