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Wines

THIS is our beautiful lilac season where splashes of the exotic colour burst over the suburbs high in the jacaranda trees blossoming their seasonal hue.

Down below at about knee-height is the grey/lilac of the wonderful lavender bush.

More than the colour, it is the lavender bush aromatics that connect me with a particular wine variety, as curious as that may seem.

In astrology, lavender belongs to Mercury, and in medicine the shrubby, perfumed plant is said to cure cramps, convulsions, paralysis and faintings. In another perfumed world lavender belongs to cosmetics, but in wine, it belongs to merlot.

Straight merlot varietal reds never have been my favourite wines. Certainly, merlot in small quantities has an important standing in a blend with cabernet sauvignon.

The grape adds components that include aroma and it broadens the palate handsomely, can soften the red and fill in potholes in the early palate.

But to my taste, merlot needs the cabernet sauvignon as much or more than the latter needs the merlot. On its lonesome, merlot can be a touch boring, lacking the complexity I require in a red wine.

However merlot is riding a fashionable wave of popularity.

One of the grape’s most attractive features are the lavender aromatics that perfume your glass and the gentle, soft tannins that don’t offend people’s palates. This has huge appeal.

Merlots come in many different body weights depending on where they are grown.

A lighter, medium body 1998 Leconfield merlot grown at Coonawarra that paraded its lavender aromatics to perfection all but changed my attitudes because this red had the complex personality I search for.

Every vintage, like winemakers around the country, Leconfield blends their estate grown merlot with cabernet franc and petit verdot grapes to make their signature wine, the cabernet sauvignon.

But, some is held back, to allow a small, limited release. Exceptional casks, such as the 1998 merlot, are bottled off and a very good varietal wine is born.

French oak applied delicately has enhanced spicy charm of wild berries and flowers; you find you are drinking soft, silk-like velvet, laced by the pot-pourri flavours of a wild field, which I’m sure contains lavender.

This is a food wine but not one for heavy, powerful dishes. I can see it matching roast pork, delicately sauced veal, braised bunny rabbit and goat. Certainly lamb cutlets would fit the merlot menu.

Not a red to find in the bargain bins, but still value at between $26 and the early $30s.

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