Harvest Series 2021: Week 6
This week we see quite a number of grape varietals coming into the winery, but we will be focussing on Merlot for our Harvest Series. Merlot is grown all over the world, and like almost every grape, it can be done in many different styles. From lighter-bodied Merlot that is better suited for everyday drinking wines to big single varietal, cellar-worthy Merlot that reaches its peak after 10+ years of maturing. Merlot is also one of the most blended grapes you'll find in Niagara, typically joining Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. While an incredibly popular grape all over the world, there is so much to know about Merlot!
Merlot is typically aged in oak to allow for subtle characteristics of nut and chocolate to develop in the wine, but some producers prefer to treat it solely in stainless steel to highlight and focus on the fruity characteristics that the grape is known for. Merlot will typically have slightly lower tannins compared to Cabernet, but more acidity, which helps bring balance to the wine at the end of the day. When blended with Cabernet, Merlot acts as the balancing grape, softening some of the rougher edges one might find in Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. As one could imagine, warm-climate and cool-climate Merlot end up being completely different wines at the end of the day.
Warm-climate Merlot, such as Napa Vallery, Australia, or Argentina, will display a beautiful ruby-blue colour, with notes of dark fruits, slight floral notes, and baking spices from aging in oak. Warm-climate Merlot will typically spend more time in oak barrels to balance out some of the fruity characteristics with notes of vanilla, chocolate, and smoky cedar. Cool-climate Merlot, such as Right Bank Bordeaux, Northern Italy, or Ontario, will have notes of tart fruit, licorice, and earthy characteristics coming underneath. Typically cool-climate Merlot will be closer to medium in body, and more subtle in their complexities.
Our Lakeview Cellars Merlot is a classic example of Ontario Merlot (and a multi-award winner), with notes of coffee, blueberry, and black cherry on the nose and a rich palate of blackberries and chocolate-covered espresso beans. This wine can stand the test of time, and can cellar for 5-7+ years, which allows the wine to fully develop into a true show stopper! While our winemaking team does exceptional things with Merlot on its own, they also do amazing wines with Merlot in blends. Our EastDell Black Label Cabernet Merlot, which is a 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, is a medium-plus bodied blend, with gorgeous notes of chocolate, leather, and blackberries on the nose, with dark berries, cedar, tobacco, and herbal notes on the palate. This Cabernet Merlot goes great with steak, or a fresh wood-fired pizza. Lastly, our newly released Persona Cabernet Merlot, a blend between 33% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Syrah, is the perfect everyday drinking red. Medium-bodied, with notes of raspberries, vanilla, and subtle spice, this Cabernet Merlot is a staff and fan-favourite (and available at the LCBO too!
Hopefully, we all have a newfound appreciation for Merlot, and can go out and grab some new bottles to try now, and well into the future!