Out of total desperation in the (failure of the) search for a very fine to superb Merlot, which i can dedicate my future weekends to, and still with a lingering memory of the exceptional Melnik 2010 Merlot, i entered Northcliff’s World of Liquor very determined .. Not long and i left with four bottles (in the image below) – carefully selected Merlots, while avoiding the current known disappointments, some of which were true gems few years back – like the Glenwood Merlot and the Shannon Bullet Hill Merlot. And the Veenwouden .. It now certainly looked like this Easter will be a Merlot tasting / dedicated weekend !
Two of the labels were known from previous experience and vintages: the Vergelegen and the Creation merlots, two – totally new but considered promising ..
Few rules on the outset :
1. Same glass for all wines ! 2. 1/3 – 1/4 of bottle left until next day, in the fridge – cork back as soon as wine poured in the glass 3. Same type of meat (already sourced) to accompany each wine
Finally, I needed to make these notes, decided to take notes. Then it dawned me – why not here !
So .. On with the tasting !
Yonder Hill 2011 Merlot (Stellenbosch), Price paid : $15. Expected special price around : ±$12 – $13. 10% discount on a case
First under the corkscrew went the Yonder Hill 2011 Merlot .. Highly regarded by John Platter himself – being given a 4.5 * – here are the first impressions :
Very good nose, showing berries and something like pepper ? Excellent palate, with berries confirmed, maybe some vanilla as well, red currant (?), and then there is this bulgarian “endreshe” leaf on the palate after few seconds, the unmistakable palate since the 2007 Vergelegen Merlot reserve !
Beautiful spice on the palate – persisting there and holding long enough – this wine seems to have a good future – structure, fruit, tannins ! Some chokolate maybe ? Remotely reminiscent of a fine Shiraz with this spice and chokolate notes ..
It is holding surpassingly well some 14 hours after after opening! Vibrant, strong, and the fruit is still there, slightly giving way to tannins .. The bulgarian “endreshe” leaf, however, is gone without a trace ..
Verdict : Excellent Merlot, with good ageing potential, very good fruit, spices, felt a bit on the strong / high alcohol side. Refused to go bitter after awhile ! This wine needs some more time in cellar – a keeper !
Which one next now ..
The empty bottle reveals a fantastic nose full of dark fruit, concentrates cassis perhaps – after being left standing with few drops in – but with the cork in place – for almost 2 full days ! Beautiful ! This i trick i learnt over the years – what happens to a “closed” bottle with a few drops in, after a few days ..
Vergelegen 2011 Merlot Reserve (Stellenbosch), Price paid : $16. Expected special price around : Unlikely lower anywhere..
The nose is not as pronounced as the Yonder Hill .. Palate – a Yonder Hill in a few years time, if the fruit is to go long .. There are fruits in the wine, dark fruits, very remote pepper / “endreshe” and sadly .. some bitter palate is already showing after 15 min in the glass .. Structure and body – slightly thinner than the Yonder Hill, but still good .. lets see later ..
Two hours later and the wine is (much) more accessible, and the bitterness has miraculously lessened, but not entirely gone away ! Now, the two first bottles stand almost together – with the Yonder Hill still taller, pun intended .. Time to put on some fine Gismonti on the main rig ..
Few more hours, and bitterness on the palate completely gone ! Fruit to the forward, yet, somehow lacking the depth of the Yonder Hill .. A good merlot by all (SA) standards – not a Chateaux Petrus, but good .. Accordingly reflected in score below
Anura 2010 Merlot Reserve. Price paid : $11. Expected special price around : ±$9 – $10. 10% discount on a case
Initial tremendous and unexpected sweetness on the palate ! Nose shy at best. Violets & mint, some dark chocolate i guess, strange, even unusual first impression, yet developing into a typical Merlot. Maybe blackcurrants, cherry in it? And very much a Melnik Merlot. Good news so far .. I believe now that something is not quite right with the wood – can taste it on the palate and find it quite pronounced on the nose .. Let see ..
30 minutes later, some serious tannins come to the fore .. I wonder whats going to happen to the aroma in a few hours, if not sooner. Nice, juicy .. I wonder of this is a 100% Merlot, and if Yes, then if the grapes were not slightly overripe when picked .. I sort of like lit – it flows and begs to be had .. Good body, good texture, nothing thin and shallow. Very reminiscent of a top flight Bulgarian Merlots. I like this wine !
Later .. Interesting .. Wood persists on the nose, but miraculously disappears on the palate ! A wine not to be be sniffed per se, but simply savoured, and in large gulps !
Later .. Wood on the nose is now gone, leaving dark chocolate behind ! Sweetness is there if tamed to an extent. If you chew the wine, the back palate reveals gentle whiffs of Bulgarian “endreshe” (crushed white pepper here?), ever so gently .. Thank you Lord !
Later .. There is something with the wood .. something bugs me,. The wood is not a 1st fill, I’m certain ! Still a fine sample of Merlot – eating for breakfast previous “champions”, e.g. Glenwood .. Fantastic inky / black almost colour .. Nose improving gradually, going chocolate with a slight hint of mint/acetone. One problem though .. i do not believe this wine has a great longevity potential – drink within 1-2 years for best condition.. But then again – the tannins are rather fine – from the skins (?) – this thing could go longer maybe ..
20h00 : Beautiful juice ! Raising the score !
Creation 2011 Merlot. Price paid : $15. Expected special price around : ±$13 – $14. 10% discount on a case
Initial concentrated nose with hints of chocolate and dark fruits, some acetone. Wine a mere 10 minutes in the glass. Palate explodes with dark chocolate !
Cannot put my finger on the fruits in there.. Maybe blackcurrant ? Well rounded tannins which do not overtake the fruit. Thas good. Some bitterness is starting to develop on the palate but this should be expected and accepted – wine is full of dark chocolate 😉 Good and long aftertaste .. Could this wine get the accolades ?
Later .. Chocolate is there, the tannins are good, this wine has a future too, but in what ?? Into more chocolate ? OK, thats good enough i guess. Fresh acidity. Alcohol ok levels, slightly on the stronger side. Begs to be drank, like the Anura ! The lack of the Anura sweetness is not bothering me – this is a different Merlot, not sure if from South Europe (Bulgaria) or from the “right bank” (Petrus), or from a great Bullet Hill year down here 😉
Not going to continue further with these notes .. Mission accomplished
Exciting and rewarding tasting ! Yonder Hill just narrowly losing the crown to the Anura (presently!). Anura is taking the first prize, this IS a Merlot i’ve been after since 2010! Both begging for a shoot out with Bein Merlot Reserve ! The Creation turns a very serious contender for the second place with all this chocolate everywhere, and great structure too and a promise for longevity. The Vergelegen somewhat disappointing but if the others were not available i’d guess i’d settle with a grin and still enjoy the Vergelegen.
Overall Score, out of 5 (and C. Petrus is 10!) (in progress)
Yonder Hill 2011 Merlot 4.5
Vergelegen 2011 Merlot Reserve 4.0
Anura 2011 Merlot Reserve 4.5 (4.75 in a few years?)
Creation 2011 Merlot 4.25 (possibly improving to 4.5)