Wine of the Month – Merlot
As we descend into the peaceful months of autumn, it’s the perfect time to create a warm space indoors, to entertain friends and relax with loved ones. A fine glass of Merlot accompanies these moments perfectly; alongside a warm fire or around the family dining table. For a special occasion, why not pair Backsberg’s Merlot with succulent roast lamb, herbed chicken, slow-cooked beef stew or flavourfully-seared meats.
Merlot is the most widely planted grape variety in France’s Bordeaux region. It derives its name from the French reference for a young blackbird and this is indicative of the grape bunches themselves, which are a dark blue colour and conical in appearance. France is also home to two thirds of all the world’s Merlot plantings, where this variety is instrumental in blending the famous Bordeaux wines. As a single-varietal, it produces soft, medium-bodied red wines with layers of juicy fruit. The wines are characterised by a range of fresh flavours such as plums, cherries, currants, blueberries and blackberries mixed with cocoa and black pepper nuances.
The tannins are softer than those of Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. This makes Merlot an ideal wine to blend with these more full-bodied, structured varieties, creating a lighter smoother wine. Oak-aging adds interesting facets of cedar, graphite, tea leaves, cloves and tobacco. This variety ripens earlier than its blending companion, Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Merlot is adaptable to most soils and is simple to cultivate; it requires attentive pruning, loses fruitiness if it over-ripens, and is prone to diseases, rot and mildew. Merlot is rather climate-sensitive and therefore can vary from vintage to vintage; hence blending it with other red varieties has become commonplace to achieve consistency.
South Africa produces world-class Merlots. At Backsberg the Merlot is planted on a site named Klein Babylonstoren against the Simonsberg Mountain, where the soil is rich in granite structure and settled with age. Merlot likes to be planted in older soils where the plant’s growth is less vigorous, resulting in fewer green flavours.
Of all the red varietals at Backsberg, Merlot is picked first, just before optimal ripeness. The vines are hand-picked and laid into 450kg bins. In the cellar the grapes are crushed into stainless steel tanks and allowed to cold-soak for a few days. After three days fermentation begins and the ferment is controlled to not exceed 28°C temperatures. This makes the wine soft and fruity. Pressing is done without much post-fermentation skin maceration. The malolactic fermentation process takes place inside the tanks after which it is blended and placed into oak barrels for 12 months.
Backsberg’s Merlot is consistently fruity with aromas of soft vanilla, juicy red plum and raspberries. Ripe, sweet fruit and delicate tannins coat your palate with hints of smokey, savoury flavours. Overall this is a delicately-balanced, easy-drinking red wine suited to every day and every occasion.
Round off a cosy evening with a bottle of Backsberg Merlot to greet the coming winter.
For more information or to purchase this wine visit Backsberg.