Friday, March 21, 2008

Day Eight - Merlot makes the world go round

The thing I'm noticing most about my regime is how I'm not looking forward to evening meals with the same degree of anticipation. On a non-work day like today, it'd get to around 4pm, and I'd look at what were were going to be eating, then pop into the cellar to select something appropriate. Or if I'd been tasting, I might look at the open bottles and plan a meal to show off one of my faves. But with the BBD - Big Brand Diet - I feel like I'm missing out on a large degree of mealtime pleasure.

Tonight (spare ribs by popular request from the bairns) I've got two best-selling Merlots to look forward to. I've never understood the craze for Merlot. I realise that there are some châteaux in Bordeaux that come up with the goods, some fine examples from California and a number of places in Italy - Tuscany for power and fragrance, further north for more leafy, refreshing fodder - that can push the right buttons. Southern France too has a handful of crackers. But overall, the quality is desperately poor. It's a rare New World winery where the Merlot is the star wine - Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz usually outclass it by a considerable margin, especially in Australia. Chile? Since they started differentiating between true Merlot and Carmenère, the quality of wines labelled 'Merlot' has tumbled. Am I being unfair on the grape? Let's taste and find out.

Hardys VR Merlot 2007, South Eastern Australia
It's the sort of wine where my tasting notes say 'froot' - in other words it's a struggle to put your finger on the precise type of fruit, it's just rather vague and slightly confected, jammy and simple, instantly forgettable. And the back label has this word that bugs me - 'vanillin'. Don't ask me why it bugs me, but it's the sort of word I'd never use in conversation. This from Wikipedia. 'The largest single use of vanillin is as a flavoring, usually in sweet foods. The ice cream and chocolate industries together comprise 75% of the market for vanillin as a flavoring, with smaller amounts being used in confections and baked goods.' I don't want my wine to taste of ice-cream.

Echo Falls Merlot 2006, California
This is a rare occasion when I actually prefer a cheap Californian wine to it's Aussie equivalent. It's not a stunna, but at least this has a bit of grip and backbone, plus some of the leafy blueberry edges of Merlot. If it weren't for that rather cloying finish, I'd be drinking quite a bit more of this with the ribs.

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