What grape do you like best?

Who hasn’t being asked this question?

More than once, isn’t it?

Personally, I think that the more wine I taste, the more I enjoy changing grapes, wines, yes even white ones, D.O.C., countries…… but on second thoughts, I cannot help thinking I have a marked preference for Merlot.
Smooth and mellow wine Merlot is perhaps the most accessible red wine for newcomers in the world of wine. Very good red-wine grape, a key player in the Bordeaux blend, more recently grown and produced as a varietal by itself, especially in California, Spain, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Italy….. you name it.

Most of the best Spanish merlot are medium bodied, with nice silky texture, black-cherry and herbal flavours are typical, great mouth feeling, fruity upfront: raspberry, currants and other red fruit. Long finish.

Merlot can be powerfully tannic and will benefit from bottle age. It is mainly grown in Cataluña, Somontano, but you can also find it in Alicante, Murcia, and yes even in Ribera de Duero.

Well, what about my favourite ones:

To start with we have Enate Merlot-Merlot (100% Merlot). Somontano. The most structured of the four merlots I tasted. It is a medium to full bodied wine with notes of lingering finish. Black and purple colour. Terrific fruit intensity. Excellent taste of dark fruits, herbal flavours and a hint of smoked wood. Full and savoury in mouth. Long velvety finish. It is fabulous with a mushroom risotto or a roast beef. Aftertaste shows an explosion of the fruits. Honestly and sincerely the Spanish Merlot I enjoyed most.

Also in Somontano we can’t leave out Viñas del Vero Merlot (100% Merlot). Deep cherry red with a fruity aroma: raspberries, cherries. A nice touch of smoked oak. Fresh and sweet in mouth with lively and well integrated tannins. Very pleasant finish.

Raimat Merlot (95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon). Coster del Segre. Dark intense cherry red. Depth scent with a bouquet of ripe dark fruit, nice spice and oak. The taste, full and savoury in mouth, mild acidity, right balance of fruit and oak. A wine that ages well for at least 7 to 10 years. I have some 95 bottles kept in my cellar for a rainy day.

Enrique Mendoza Merlot (100% merlot) Alicante. One of my favourite vineyards. Dark intense cherry. Deep aroma of red fruits: raspberries, cherry fruit. Full bodied and remarkably rich. Mouth filling, fresh tannins, very slight and bitter? perhaps oak leading to a long finish.

Taking into account that Merlot makes up only 2-3 % of the wine produced in Spain we have had a comprehensive look at some of the most interesting ones but I would also suggest you tasting:

Castaño Merlot (D.O. Yecla)

Altico Merlot Joven T. Agapito Ruiz (D.O. Jumilla)

Mas Comptal RD de Lagrima (D.O. Penedes)

Last but not least, pairing: Merlot is quite versatile and flexible. You can pair it with any medium-flavour food, but it’s at its best with beef and lamb, acorn fed cured ham, it can also be used with game and duck. I drink it especially with Marmitako, any big chunk of red tuna or garlicky red bream. Merlot also goes down very well with Italian pasta or risottos. A final word: please don’t decant it.

by guest contributor Fernando Vigón