Imagine Madame Merlot – curvy, supple and fruity, wearing silk – often perfectly paired on the Bordeaux dance floor with half-brother Cabernet Sauvignon sporting his angles and attitude or as part of a family dance troupe with their cool, fragrant parent, Cabernet Franc. But in true feminist style, she is also happy and comfortable in her skin to go it alone - in her own, fabulous one-woman show. 100% Merlot icons such as Petrus and Le Pin from Pomerol and Masseto from Tuscany not only go to the ball, they steal the show!
My teacher conjured up the first image of Merlot as plump, fruity Madame at my first wine course and I have built on her persona ever since as part of my ‘wine memory bank’ enthusiastically tasting versions from all over the world. And more recently, here at Chateau George 7, we have been bringing to life the profile I love and aspire to in a desirable wine.
As expected in our diverse world, Merlot comes in all shapes and sizes with a variety of reputations to match. It (she) can be criticised for being bland or dull yet can also be fresh and light and approachable young, beautifully age-worthy or too alcoholic when over ripe and heavy, leaning on an oak crutch. With a tendency to be rather too accommodating, Merlot is a wonderful example of a grape expressing its origin, influences and upbringing in the personality of the final adult wine.
As I taste the 2018 vintage from Chateau George 7, Madame Merlot is in the house (or rather, the barrel). The wine is already delicious, displaying the good character traits of the vintage thanks to the Spring that brought plenty of water to enable the grapes to thrive over a very hot dry Summer and yet we escaped the mildew which affected many of her generation. Being left alone to develop her full flavour profile for a full two weeks after peers had been harvested all around, has brought an extra concentration without sliding towards flabby. Decidedly seductive.
This rich, silky Madame has plenty of up front plumpness (ahem) grabbing the senses with her fruitiness yet she is beautifully in proportion with rounded tannins, just the right amount of acidic wit and unexpected length revealing more complexity as you give her the chance to express herself. What is there not to be passionate about? What we need to do now, is to leave her to her own devices in the company of fresh new oak (and some that has been seasoned by previous generations) to allow the excitement of the quality of the dress rehearsal at en primeur this April, to mature into the fabulous live show next year.
At Chateau George 7, deep Bordeaux roots coupled with fresh and innovative wine making approaches are resulting in the next generation of Fronsac red wine – a Madame Merlot solo performance that will keep you entertained for the next 10 years.
DNA profiling has proved that Merlot is the progeny of Cabernet Franc and Magdalene Noire des Charentes while Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents are Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.