News - Merlot Musings
20 May 2008
We had quite an occasion in April when through the courtesy of Reid and Stephen of Kaesler Wines, two young Frenchmen called to visit. They were Jean Moueix and Casper, from the famous firm Ets JP Moueix, owners of Chateau Petrus.
The wines of Chateau Petrus have recognition as being “the World’s Best Merlot”, and so it was a very special pleasure to show a range of Grand Merlots in the tasting.
The Grand Merlots they found fascinating, not only with the style but also the fact that Petrus vineyards are much the same size as our own at Irvine.
1992 World’s Best in Switzerland, 1997
1997 New World’s Best Red Wine, Germany 2006
2002 The coolest vintage ever
2004 The current release
2005 The release in two year’s time
So quite a snapshot of Grand Merlot.
Then onto the commercial wines lead by “The Baroness”, Irvine Merlot, Merlot Cabernet Franc and Springhill Merlot, to give an appreciation of just what Irvine is doing.
Then just to fascinate (and frighten), the two 1998 Grand Merlots.
Why two? Well on the bottling day of the 1998 we had the usual super deluxe cork used but also had a few dozen put under screw cap as well.
This really fascinated the “pair from Petrus”, who after much deliberation still felt that they enjoyed the cork sealed wine more so than the screw cap sealed wine.
Very understandable in so much as very few people have ever had the opportunity to taste such premium quality wine under two different seals side by side. In fact, the wine tastes quite different one to the other in spite of being exactly the same wine in both bottles.
What then is the difference?
Firstly, there is the need to watch out for personal preference versus any perceived quality difference. There is no doubt that under cap the wine seems fruitier and fresher, both in palate and bouquet. However, personal preference now starts to take place.
Under cork we see the “expected maturation” in bouquet and palate with less fruit and perhaps more readily recognised acidity. Slightly more, not big differences, but still noticeable.
Thinking of cork as a plug from a tree and realising that cork then influences the taste, the realisation that what I had grown used to as “maturation” characters was mostly? Cork wood flavour, really did astound.
This comparison is even more easily seen in white wines, as you can guess.
So what seems to be a “slow down” in maturation and retention of fruit could be mostly cork flavour.
Once you get over the traditional approach to maturation the beauty of the fruit retention by the screw cap is most noticeable. However, it then becomes very much a personal preference indeed.
In summary then, it was great to meet a member of the Moueix family, for I have followed the name and the company ever since tasting Petrus for the first time in the late 1970s.