I would not consider myself a Merlot drinker nor is it a varietal that I would typically order off of a menu. However, I couldn’t have told you why that is the case. Merlot is typically medium-bodied, forward with its flavors of cherry, plum and other dark berries and often has subtleties of earthier traits like tobacco and spices. If you described it to me with those specifications, I’d say that it’s right up my alley. But by it’s actual varietal, “Merlot”, I’d pass. For these reasons, I thought Merlot would be an interesting addition to the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program.
Based on many online articles regarding this common bias against Merlot, it appears as though this aversion is based in recent high production of poor quality wines. In the recent past, Merlot has been overproduced in cheap form and thus been surpassed by other, well-known grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon. However, it appears as if Merlot is making a comeback and that a focus on higher quality production of Merlot at affordable price points is a goal.
This Columba Bianca Vitese Merlot was a learning experience in wine for me. When I observed the wine in my glass, I could immediately tell that the alcohol level was higher (14%) by the way that the wine adhered to the walls of the glass. The legs of this wine were also quite remarkable. In the smell, licorice was extremely prominent accompanied with a bit of tobacco and soil. After the official tasting, I went back to research the official tasting notes of this wine because I couldn’t quite put my finger on a couple of the aromas. That aroma turned out to be bay leaf, which I confirmed with actual bay leaves from my spice cabinet. In the flavor, the licorice remained prominent and once the wine was able to really open up and breathe, the plum was extremely forward with a nice subtle chocolate in the finish.
I find it interesting that even with wines that are not a favorite (sorry, this Merlot didn’t quite sway me), if you truly take the time to observe all of the attributes, a lot can be learned from the tasting experience. Before I started the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program, I would have simply tasted this wine, declared that I did not like it, and moved on. However, with this experience, I can taste a wine, fully understand every characteristic and better understand why I don’t enjoy the wine.
I gave this wine a 3 out of 5 cork rating – mostly because I appreciate the opportunity that it gave me to dig deep into what Merlot stands for. This wine typically retails for about $15.