It is quite simply astonishing how much the world has changed since my last blog post. The sudden onset of the Coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives as we collectively do all we can to slow it’s spread. For me and my family at the moment this means self isolation. Taking food deliveries from local farm shops and only going out once a day for a local walk. I think one of the biggest challenges we will face is yet to come when we may have to accept that this state of affairs has to continue for a more enduring period. Whilst the men and women of our heroic front line services and those in essential service industries work incredibly hard to cope with the current challenge a different challenge is being presented to the rest of the population. We must all hunker down and deal with a very limited life and square up to boredom and frustration. We play our part in this by combating these negative emotions and I hope reading a new blog post helps in a tiny way.
In the 2004 film ‘Sideways’ the Pinot Noir obsessed character ‘Miles Raymond’ (played by actor Paul Giamatti) utters the now infamous line “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I’m not drinking any f****** Merlot”. Widely thought to have materially damaged US Merlot sales it only actually reduced them by 2%. The more material effect was a positive one for Pinot Noir whose sales actually increased 16%.
Now , whilst not as violently against it as he is, I was probably in the ‘Miles camp’ when it comes to Merlot for some time. Compared to Australian Cabernet and Shiraz for instance I invariably found the wines too soft and non-descript. I also remember a terrible hangover that I swear was the fault of a bottle of Merlot brought over by a friend. Bulgarian I think? ( they make some great wines now I hasten to add ) It was then that I discovered Pomerol! 80% Merlot you say!! Really!
Yes, the diminutive region of Pomerol on the right bank of the Dordogne, produces wines that are generally 70-80% Merlot with the rest being Cabernet Franc (known in Pomerol , just to keep you on your toes, as Bouchet) Merlot is an earlier ripening variety with big fleshy berries and thinner skins. It is much easier to ripen than Cabernet Sauvignon in cooler vintages and results in , according to the World Atlas of wine , ‘less tannic and opulent wines that can be enjoyed sooner’. This is certainly the experience I’ve had.
Pomerol is genuinely tiny at only 3km by 4km and unlike many French wine appellations there is no village called Pomerol. It is in fact the smallest fine wine region in Bordeaux producing between 350,000 and 400,000 cases of wine per year. Most wine estates produce very small quantities and for this reason don’t look to Pomerol for bargains. The soils in Pomerol are generally gravelly with a tendency towards sandy soils in the West and South and then becomes enriched with clay in the East and North near St-Emillion. The wines vary in body depending on where in Pomerol they hail from so it’s well worth doing a bit of homework. The most famous wine of the region ‘Chateau Petrus’ comes from vines that sit on a unique iron rich patch of blue clay on a plateau in the NE corner. Wines that hail from this plateau area are amongst the best of the region. Given Petrus tends to cost somewhere north of £3,000 per bottle it leads you to think that there must be something in this ‘terroir’ thing our French friends keep banging on about?
The latest Pomerol I’ve tried is Chateau Marzy, bought from http://www.majesticwine.co.uk.
This wine had a nice deep colour albeit not as deep as a typical left bank claret. On the nose, I totally agree with Majestic, it is all plums and spice with a suggestion of tertiary cigar box type aromas. On the palate the wine loses ground a bit. Nicely balanced acidity but a bit lacking in expected depth and body leading to a nice but only medium finish. I picked this up on offer at £20 and at this price I think it makes a great introduction to the complexity that you can get from the Merlot based wines of this region. Try it with roast Lamb or Duck.
Overall though a 6/10 and unfortunately I don’t think it would live up to its full price of £37!. Given the amount of Pomerol I haven’t tried I won’t be re-visiting.
Stay well all!