Colour and condition: The hue is medium-to-deep brick red and condition is bright. Nose: All good Merlot wines have a strong black fruit statement and the aromas on the 2016 Merlot are right in that mould. There is an array of rich blackberry, blueberry and cherry notes and as with its Cabernet Sauvignon sibling, they dominate. Sitting very much in the background at the moment are the beginnings of Merlot’s earthy tones, with just a touch of leather and tar.
Palate: Here there is immediate impact from rich dark fruits, making the mouthfeel supple and generous. Given this variety can produce assertive tannins, we’re really proud the structure of the wine is much better balanced, with firm phenolics that have good tarry concentration but none of the drying astringency that can be typical in Merlot. Rather, the dark fruit flavours flow across the palate and then the tannin and oak on the finish give just enough firmness and some pencil shavings notes.
All 2 varieties were destemmed and sorted to remove any contaminating leaves and stems and Cabernet Franc were then placed into small, open fermenters. Merlot was transferred into small, closed fermenters. The reason for the variation is we have greater success in extracting Merlot’s colour and tannin in vessels that can be pumped over, not plunged. The reasons are not clear, other than to say if there’s a variety that will be different, it’s Merlot!
Fermentation for all was with multiple yeast strains, and each batch was hand-plunged, or pumped over, 3 times per day and tasted daily to monitor tannin balance. Merlot was pressed after 14 days and Cabernet Franc after 9 days. It was another noticeable feature of 2016 that the two reached good tannin balance relatively quickly compared to previous years and spent less time on skins.
After pressing each batch underwent malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and once completed, they were adjusted for acidity and SO2 and racked to barrel through March and April 2016. All barrels were 228 litre French oak of which 6% were new. The final blends were tasted and prepared in January 2018. The Merlot looked best as a combination of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc.