Lighter style reds such as pinot noir have long been on the rise among wine drinkers in Australia, but an award-winning local winemaker predicts merlot will be the next big thing.
Winemaker Neil Doddridge, who makes the Black Wattle wine range from the Mount Benson region, says merlot is the wine to try this autumn and winter.
“I’ve been making wines for almost 40 years, and merlot has become my favourite lately,” Mr Doddridge said.
“It is a variety that has been long overlooked, but it’s a lovely, mouth-filling red wine that is great to enjoy with food or on its own.
“I personally think it’s going to be the next big thing in red wine.”
Merlots from the Bordeaux region are some of the most famous and expensive reds in the world, but in Australia, the grape variety has long struggled to find its home region – until now.
“Mount Benson has similar summer climatic and ripening conditions to Bordeaux in France, which are just a couple of reasons it is the perfect region in which to grow merlot,” Mr Doddridge said.
“The climate here is harsh and cold during winter, and the hot dry summers are milder than many in Australia’s grape growing regions, due to the close proximity of the Southern Ocean.”
The grapes ripen slowly and evenly in late spring and summer, creating wines with refined and pure varietal characters and soft tannins.
In addition to this, soils in Mount Benson are of red terra rossa and loam over free-draining limestone gravel, and have much the same profile as the famous Coonawarra cigar-shaped strip.
This rich terroir adds structure and complexity to the wines.
“You will find beautiful flavours of dark plum, blueberry, mocha and maybe a hint of red cedar in merlot,” Mr Doddridge said.
“It can be a fairly big wine at times, but the variety is more refined from our region.”
Merlots play a prominent role in the Black Wattle range, as do cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot gris, rose, and shiraz.