[click image to zoom]
image may not be actual bottle available
Merlot has a reputation for producing smooth, velvety wines that vary depending upon the climate and soil type. Warm conditions on clay soils often produce soft, fruit forward styles. Cool, higher elevation sites produce wine with a slightly more austere structure. It still reigns as one of the world's most noble varieties forming the majority of the blend in Bordeaux’s right bank vineyards of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. It is now prevalent across the world, achieving particular success in South America, California, and Washington. In central Italy, Merlot is either bottled as a varietal or blended with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon to form Indicazione Geografica Tipica's (IGT), known as Super Tuscans.
A country viewed by many as the home of fine wine, it is almost unique in terms of how embedded food and wine is in the nations culture. Given the diverse geography, with so much of the country providing the climate and soil suitable for viticulture, it is no surprise that its produces such an extensive and varied selection of wines. It is the country from where the vast majority of the New World's most popular "international" grapes and stylistic influences originate. While there might seem to be an alarming disparity between the most sought after wines (were a case might set you back as much as a deposit on a small house) and the millions of gallons of vin de table filling up the European wine lake every year, there is so much great value to be found between the two extremes. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhone may still dominate the market for fine wine, but regions including the Loire, Alsace, Languedoc & Roussillon and the South West are increasingly becoming excellent sources of good quality, affordable wines.
Located in South West France, Bordeaux is one of the World’s most important wine producing regions. The Gironde estuary and its two tributaries, the Garonne and Dordogne, splits the region into the ‘left bank’ and ‘right bank’. The left bank, on the west side of the Gironde, consists of the Médoc and Graves, while Pomerol and St. Emilion are located on the right bank. In between the Garonne and Dordogne is the Entre-Deaux-Mers region, French for 'between two seas'. From north to south the Médoc includes the famous classed growth chateaux in the communes of St. Estephe, Paulliac, St.Julien, and Margaux. The Graves and it’s enclave Pessac-Léognan make both red and white wine. While those of Pessac- Léognan’s are dry, Sauternes and Barsac make world-famous sweet whites. Although Bordeaux makes some of the world’s most expsenive wines, less expensive but good value alternatives come from Moulis and Listrac on the left and Bourg and Blaye on the right offer less expensive wines for earlier consumption.
Sub-Region: St. Emilion
St. Emilion is the largest of Bordeaux’s right bank appellations, however unlike the grand estates of the Medoc, it is composed of hundreds of small producers, also referred to as garagistes. Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate with the former accounting for about 60% of all plantings. Some Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, however careful site selection is important as the soils are generally too warm. While the Medoc (left bank) was ranked under the official 1855 classification, it wasn’t for another hundred years until the St. Emilion rolled its own. Where the 1855 classification has only been changed three times, St. Emilion’s, by comparison, is far more dynamic, with a new list drawn up everything ten years. However, as the 2006 classification demonstrated, changes, particularly when producers are demoted, are fiercly contest. Finally passed by the legislature in 2009, the classification comprised of 15 Premier Grand Crus classes and 53 Grands crus classes. The Premiers are broken down further into two groups classes A and B, with Châtea Ausone and Châtea Cheval Blanc in the former and the remaining 13, including such revered producers as Château Angélus, Château Pavie, and Château Figeac, in the latter.
Red wine is wine made from dark-coloured grape varieties. The color of red differs based on the grapes variety or varieties used.
Interestingly, black grapes yield a juice that is greenish-white. The actual red color comes from anthocyan pigments (also called anthocyanins) from the skin of the grape (exceptions are the relatively uncommon teinturier varieties, which produce a red colored juice). Most of the production centers around the extraction of color and flavor from the grape skin.