Merlot is one of the most planted premium grape varieties in the world, best known for being a component in Bordeaux blends. The Merlot grape is thought to be the result of a natural cross between Cabernet Franc and another unidentified grape, making it a sibling (or step-sibling) to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Regularly vinified together, Merlot has several advantages over Cabernet Sauvignon as it ripens earlier and more quickly, as well as providing slightly higher yields. The finished wine that Merlot produces is softer and rounder with gentle tannins that provides a contrast to the heavier more structured Cabernet Sauvignon. These characteristics have seen the grape being widely planted in both Old and New World countries.
Merlot is in fact the third most planted red variety in Australia behind Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10 537 hectares under vine. Despite this popularity Merlot is yet to really find a definitive regional home in Australia, with most of the fruit being used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon. When used in a varietal wine the results have tended to produce soft and fruity wines designed to be drunk young.
The first Merlot vineyard was planted in the mid 70’s at Balgownie Estate on clay soils with alluvial gravel at Bendigo. As the vines matured the potential for Merlot grown in Bendigo became apparent and led to further plantings in 1997. The objective at Balgownie has always been not to make a Merlot in the typical soft, fruity, easy drinking style, but to make a bigger, richer, age worthy style that would demonstrate the capabilty of the variety and the potential of the vineyard site.
To produce our Estate Merlot it is crucial that all the elements come together in the vineyard. This is such a unique wine that it can only be produced in an outstanding vintage where the levels of sunlight, warmth and rainfall all conspire to produce flawless grapes. The yields in the vineyards are kept very low, around one tonne to the acre, to build flavour, complexity and intensity in the fruit. To retain these qualities, the fruit is hand picked before being transported immediately to the winery.
Once in the winery the fruit is destemmed and gently crushed to open fermenters where it slowly fermented over 21 days. During the fermentation process, traditional hand plunging techniques were used to maximise extraction from the skins. The finished wine was aged in a combination of new and old French barriques for 14 months before being bottled.
The new release of the 2015 Estate Merlot is faithful to our objective and is a rich and opulent wine with layers of complex flavours supporting an appaling and savoury palate with fine tannins. This a wine to enjoy with a good meal and good friends or it will comfortably cellar for 6 to 8 years.
Cellar Door Price $45 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club Members $33.75 per bottle
Wine Club Members $38.25 (as part of a dozen bottles)