Well we certainly can't be accused of not listening to our customers. 'I'd like a soft, juicy Merlot?' is a common question we get asked, so we went on the hunt for one and found this little gem. It's from the Languedoc in France where the sun-baked vineyards produce wonderfully ripe grapes brimming with flavour. This great example is soft textured, with jammy blackberry and juicy plum flavours and well-integrated, creamy tannins. It's smooth, supple and balanced. The 'La Girouette' label range are classic French varietals from the sunny Pays d'Oc region. Produced by multi-award winning cooperative Foncalieu; pioneers of agronomic research and terroir expression
2020 Tannat/Merlot, Vignobles Fontan, Cotes de Gascogne, France
This really is a red for all seasons. It is by no means a lightweight, so those looking for a comforting cold weather wine won't be disappointed, but at the same time it's kept fresh and lively by the vivid blackberry and blueberry fruit on the palate. It's certainly on our list of vibrant summer reds to accompany a barbecue or grilled meats.
Vignobles Fontan has been on our radar for quite some time. Their white blend continues to be one of our best-sellers, and we've sold some of their delicious Armagnac in the past, but quite why it has taken us so long to discover this absolute gem is a mystery.
Rarely have we commited to stocking a wine so soon after tasting it for the first time, but we were on the phone to the supplier within minutes of first tasting this to see how quickly we could get hold of some.
The Tannat grape is very much at home in south west France. The Madiran AOC, where the reds must contain a minimum of 60% Tannat, is very much the spiritual home of the variety, but it has never really taken off internationally, except perhaps in Uruguay where some great Tannats are made. Its reputation was as a bit of a bruiser, high in tannin and a bit rough round the edges. Modern winemaking, particularly the use of micro-oxgenation during fermentation, has helped tame the grape, and these days there are some far more approachable examples available. Here they've also blended it with the much softer textured and fruitier Merlot grape, and together they absolutely sing.
2018 Sandstone Merlot, Wente, California, USA
A little Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot are added to the Wente Sandstone Merlot to give the soft basic character of the Merlot a little more texture and to give it more aromatic tension. It still remains a Merlot, with the typical attributes such as gentle tannins and a round finish. The warm days serve the maturity of the grapes and the cool nights in the San Francisco Bay are conducive to flavours. An ideal climate for high quality red wines.
2016 Merlot, Bolgare, Thracian Plains, Bulgaria
Domaine Boyar International AD is one of the biggest players on the Bulgarian wine scene. Thanks to its unique access to premium grapes and its state of the art winery, they are producing wines that really punch well above their price point. Deep ruby in colour, this wine displays aromas of mocha, mint and blackberries. This wine has a long finish, with a lingering aftertaste of juicy blackberry, with a hint of spice and subtle smoky character.
2017 Chateau Peychaud, Cotes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France
This is a remarkably serious claret at a very attractive price. It's a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc which has undergone part barrel ageing to add a hint of coffee and cocoa to the ripe autumnal fruit. It's concentrated, has a strong tannic backbone and is best served with quite a hearty plate of food.
There is potential for a little development here with time, but it's great now as a young wine when opened in advance or decanted.
2018 Merlot/Cabernet, Snapper Rock, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
This is beautifully fruited on the nose showing dark plum, cranberry, toasted hazelnut and game characters with a touch of dark cocoa. The palate is wonderfully weighted and fleshy, delivering excellent fruit intensity and rounded mouthfeel, finishing persistent and silky. The wine offers gorgeous fruit flavours with subtle spicy complexity.
The merlot was grown in the Bridge Pa region and was handpicked and fermented in small open-top fermenters. Aged for 18 months in oak barrels, the wine was then blended and bottled to achieve what we think is a stunning little wine.
About Snapper Rock
Over the long warm summer months, we spend endless days on the blue waters of New Zealand’s oceans at our favourite fishing spots or Snapper Rocks hoping to catch the elusive Snapper.
We have crafted a range of affordable New Zealand wines that truly express the unique terroir and marine climate of New Zealand’s two major wine producing regions Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay.
To make our wines we have leveraged off the local knowledge of two of New Zealand’s most talented young wine makers David Clouston from Marlborough and Hayden Penney form Hawke’s Bay. Using fresh fruit driven styles of wine making pioneered in New World to create wines that reflect the variety’s best suited to those regions of New Zealand.
2018 Chateau La Pointe Bouquey, St Emilion, Bordeaux, France
This ever reliable chateau has, once again, come up with the goods. This is just what good value St Emilion should be like; it's full of vibrant fruit and has a juicy soft texture on the palate.
2017 Merlot Reserve, Santa Carolina, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Full bodied and concentrated with juicy plum fruit flavours, cinnamon and hints of tobacco on the soft velvety finish. The grapes were grown in the Miraflores vineyards which has some of the oldest vines in the region and Los Lingues Estate, both in the Colchagua Valley. The valley has the perfect weather for growing grapes with clearly defined seasons with cool, rainy winters and warm summers with high daytime temperatures, moderated by cool nights. This allows the grapes to slowly ripen and develop complex flavours. The wine was aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels before being bottled.
2019 Chateau Pontet Nivelle, Bordeaux, France
This is really friendly claret offering good ripe fruit and soft tannins. It's for drinking now while it's young and fruit driven. The tannins are gentle but sufficient to give the wine structure and depth, making it a very good allrounder when it comes to matching with food.
2016 Chateau Saint Robert, Graves, Bordeaux
There were some exceptional wines made in Bordeaux in 2016 and this is certainly no exception, in fact this is an absolute triumph. It is such a beautifully balanced claret, in both flavour and texture. The fruit on the palate is clean and pure with very subtle coffee and graphite notes in the background. It has beautifully integrated tannins, making this a very enjoyable drink in its youth, but giving it the structure for a few years in the cellar if you like somethigna little more mature.
2018 Merlot, Louis Eschenauer, Languedoc, France
There's a lot going for this very reasonably priced southern French Merlot. It's a very good example of the variety, with a good meaty texture and plenty of ripe fruit on the nose and palate. There's some lovely cherry and blackcurrant flavours and on the finish the wine has a lovely silky texture.
2018 Brolio Chianti Classico, Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, Italy
The vineyards that produce the grapes for the Brolio label are located from 280 to 480 meters above sea level. Vineyard soils vary greatly, but all are strewn with stony fragments adding mineral richness. This exalts the structure of the Chianti Classico vintage.
Intense ruby red colour. Complex aromas of iris and violets, red fruit and balsamic scents. Soft, elegant and well-smoothed tannins in the mouth. A true expression of the territory with well-balanced acidity and mineral tannins, before finishing long.
2010 Chateau Pierbone, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France
This second wine of the highly regarded Chateau Peyrabon is always one of the best value clarets available, and in exceptional vintages, such as 2010, it offers a lot of serious wine for the money.
8-10 years is about the perfect age for this wine. The emphasis is on ripe fruit and this has now been joined by some subtle spicy, earthy flavours that add great complexity. The tannins were never overpowering, but they have now beautifully integrated, giving the wine a soft texture and roundness.
This really is a super for claret and at this price should be in all Bordeaux lovers' wine racks.
2019 Molu Merlot, Kalfu, Maipo Valley, Chile
This a great example of top quality Chilean Merlot, with aromas of black cherry and raspberry standing out. There are also soft notes of vanilla, spices and dark chocolate coming from the wood ageing.
On the palate it has a good volume, a balanced acidity and round tannins. Soft finish and elegant notes of dark fruits and vanilla.
2016 Estate Wine, Rust en Vrede, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The flagship wine of Rust en Vrede, Estate Wine is a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot in a full-bodied and complex wine that truly reflects its terroir.
Crimson red. Gentle floral aromas of violets and jasmine are backed by hints of fresh leather and tobacco leaf, mulberries and forest floor. The palate replicates the nose with earthy flavours brought forward by dark fruits including blueberries and blackcurrant, all integrating well to create a lengthy finish with soft, velvety tannins. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Syrah, 9% Merlot.
Established in 1694, Rust en Vrede is proud to be part of a remarkable three hundred year old wine tradition. Since 1977 the Engelbrecht family has specialized in the exclusive production of red wine, with the focus on Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Proprietor Jean Engelbrecht has worked to establish Rust en Vrede as one of South Africa's premium red wine estates, with full-bodied and complex wines that reflect the uniqueness of the Helderberg terroir.
1998 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, France
"An excellent effort from Domaine de Chevalier, this dark ruby/purple-colored 1998 exhibits smoky, tobacco-tinged, earthy scents intermixed with black currant and cherry fruit. There is impressive concentration, medium body, sweet tannin, and a supple, ripe finish." 87-89 points. Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
2011 Chateau Haut Brisson, St Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
This wonderful under-the-radar St Emilion is fantastic value. It has a wonderful depth of cherry and plum fruit, with hints of cedar wood and a touch of vanilla spice. It now has a mature softness making it perfect for drinking over the next year or two.
2012 Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot, St Emilion Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux, France
"A spectacular wine from this nearly 50-acre vineyard situated atop St.-Emilion’s famed limestone plateau, the final blend for the 2012 Beau-Sejour Becot was 70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. It achieved 14% natural alcohol and yields were 31 hectoliters per hectare. One of the stars of the vintage, it is elegant yet powerful, rich and authoritative with abundant black raspberry, blueberry, graphite and toasty vanillin notes. Full-bodied and super rich for a 2012, it is packed with potential. The tannins are ripe as well as abundant suggesting several years of bottle age will be required. It should turn out to be a 20 year proposition." 92-95pts, Wine Advocate
2016 Chateau Montlandrie, Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux
The Côtes de Castillon vineyard of famous Pomerol winemaker Denis Durantou. This 11 hectare vineyard has 25 year old vines - 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% of a new clone of Cabernet Sauvignon that Denis planted in 2009. Always modestly priced, this is a wine that gives brilliant value for money.
The 2016 Montlandrie is the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux from Denis Durantou. On the nose, it is the ripest of Durantou’s six offerings, offering mulberry, Dorset plum and hints of fresh fig, and more open than either La Chenade or Les Cruzelles, his two Lalande de Pomerols. The palate is medium-bodied with fine grip on the entry. There is good volume and depth to this wine. The red fruit merges with more black fruit toward the finish, where hints of tobacco and cedar lend a slightly Left Bank feel. Very impressive. Drink 2021-2036. 91 Neal Martin, vinous.com (Jan 2019), January 2019
2016 Chateau Tour du Moulin, Fronsac, Bordeaux, France
Like a lot of Bordeaux wines from the excellent 2016 vintage, this delicious wine is rich and juicy, with black plum and red current fruit, gentle spice and a long finish.
It definitely benefits from an hour or two open before serving, or better still, decanted.
2019 Chateau La Hourcade, Medoc, Bordeaux, France
This is excellent value from the northen Medoc. There are bold dark fruits on the palate with touches of coffee and earthy spice from the barrel ageing.
2017 Il Collina 21, Il Borghetto, Tuscany, Italy
The Azienda Agricola Il Borghetto do things differently in this most well known and established region of Italy.
Led by English winemaker Tim Manning who cut his vinous teeth in vintages in Oregon, there is a determination to show the potential of the region. As a result he is at odds with the Consorzio of Chianti Classico over his methods and approach.
The percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese making up the blend in Collina change slightly from year-to-year to enable them to make a soft, perfumed and easy-drinking wine. Red cherries, earthy aromas and notes of tea and tobacco.
2017 Source de Rouge, Chateau Ka, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
A delicate bouquet of red fruits and subtle spice whilst red pepper and soft tannins add to the fruit and fills the palate with hints of liquorice.
Château Ka is an extraordinary story of determination and resolve.
Akram Kassatly built his winery in the Bekaa Valley in 1973. Shortly after the first wines were made, Lebanon was engulfed by war. The winery was forced to close and Akram moved into other businesses. Finally in 2005 he announced that he was going to try again. Today, Château Ka is the only winery in Lebanon to produce wine entirely from their own vineyards. Akram creates both rich, concentrated reds and beautifully fresh, fruity, crisp white wines that are some of the finest in the country.
2017 Pas Curtei, Alemany I Corric, Penedes, Spain
In the little town of Vilafranca del Penedes in Cataluña, Irene and Laurent are challenging the traditional perception of DO Penedes wine.
Converting their vineyards from the typical Penedes high yields and abandoning all forms of chemical treatment and fertilisers, they follow basic organic practices. Much of the construction and equipping of their cellar was modest and homemade, including building their own tanks. Production remains small, yet as they identify further small vineyard sites their range has extended to include distinctive wines from the indigenous varietal Xarel-lo, which they choose to do extended fermentation with, using indigenous yeast and it is then left on its lees to increase the richness and compexity.
Magnum - 2013 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France
A great perfomrmer in the 2013 vintage, and even better in magnum. This muscular Bordeaux is rich and meaty with a good concentration of sweet fruit and a definite note of spice on the finish. Now at an age where it is really beginning to hit its stride, but will continue to develop for 8-10 years.
2015 Chateau Kirwan, Gran Cru Classe Margaux, Bordeaux, France
A rich, deep colour that immediately announces the tone of the vintage. It appears as a highly concentrated wine. The rich, complex nose confirms this impression, with a blend of black fruit and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon and vanilla.
In the mouth, the attack is at once fresh and profuse. The sense of volume continues mid-palate while velvety tannins gradually develop, giving the wine its body without ever becoming overbearing. Everything is in perfect balance. A few notes of cocoa and coffee complement he broad aromatic palette right up to the prolonged finale, supported by extremely mature tannins.
While the pleasure it procures may tempt some to drink it young, I suggest waiting a few years. Indeed, everything indicates long and propitious ageing.
2014 Chateau La Lagune, Cru Classe Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France
"The 2014 La Lagune is a wine that showed extremely well when I tasted it from barrel. Now in bottle, it has a very well defined, quite intense bouquet with blackberry, cedar and pencil box aromas—classic in style, demonstrating impressive breeding. The palate is very well balanced with fine tannin, bright and vivacious black fruit laced with graphite, fine mineralité and it fans out wonderfully on the Pauillac-like finish. You know, I suspect this might even surpass the 2015 La Lagune... let's see. This is excellent." Drink 2019 - 2035. 92 pts, Neal Martin, Wine Advocate
2014 Acaibo Red, Trinité Estate, Sonoma, California, USA
A deep coloured and richly flavoured blockbuster of a wine. This traditional, Bordeaux style, blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc is produced by the Lurton family, one of the grand old families of Bordeaux.
The 2014 vintage produced beautiful, evenly ripened fruit, and following 16 months ageing in French oak barrels the result is a concentrated red with silky tannins, vibrant fruit and a touch of sweet spice to the finish.
2004 Chateau Pavie Macquin, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France
"A noble, complex nose of flowers, beef blood, black currants, licorice, and truffles reveals surprising evolution. The full-bodied, powerful wine exhibits stunning concentration, beautiful richness, sweet tannin, and a long finish. A blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon (all from a bio-dynamically farmed vineyard), the 2004 Pavie-Macquin is another dazzling success from the brilliant winemaking team of Stephane Derenoncourt and Nicolas Thienpont." 93pts Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
2000 Chateau Troplong-Mondot, St. Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France
"Extremely young with an unbelievable deep purple color, the 2000 Troplong Mondot has hardly budged since I tasted it in 2003. Two recent tastings confirmed that this is the greatest Troplong Mondot between their profound 1990 and more recent vintages such as 2005, 2008, and 2009. Copious chocolate, graphite, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, and ink characteristics are present in this full-bodied, powerful, massive St.-Emilion. While the tannins are noticeable, they are better integrated than they were seven years ago, and the fruit, extract, and richness clearly outweigh the wine's structure. This 2000 will benefit from another 4-5 years of cellaring (longer than I originally predicted), and has at least two decades of drinkability ahead of it." 96pts Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 2010