Merlot (pron. mer-low)
Where Cabernet Sauvignon is structured and firm, Australian Merlot is more fleshy and lush. Merlot has often been thought of as a grape to be blended with others to create a good wine. However, the world now realizes that great wines can be made from Merlot alone. Merlot grapes tend to make more luscious, seductively fruited wines than Cabernet which can lead people to overlook its more serious side.
Merlot is able to mature in regions that are cooler than those required for Cabernet Sauvignon. However it is more susceptible to fungus and mold diseases and therefore a bit harder to grow. Australian unblended Merlot wine is being increasingly seen from areas like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia which produce soft dry Merlot wines, often described as plush plum like.
The Merlot grape is relatively thin-skinned and is moderately vigorous in vine growth, but must sometimes be reined in from setting too large a crop by judicious pruning, often followed weeks later by cluster thinning.
Australian Merlot has a lovely dark red to almost blue color. It is full of fruit flavors of ripe plums, blueberries and blackcurrants. This contrasts with Australian Cabernet Sauvignon which, while full of fruit as well, is more angular and tannic. Merlot is lower in tannins and make wines that mature faster and are softer in texture. This is why Merlot wine is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften the blend.
Australian Merlot wines are supple, forward, fruity and lush. They can be aromatic and are capable of great richness and as an added bonus can normally be enjoyed when they are younger. Australian Merlot should be served slightly below room temperature.
Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre or GSM
It’s taken a while to be accepted but Australian GSM is all the rage now and its popularity is spreading fast. GSM refers to France’s Rhone Valley blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre.
The Grenache varietal is a sweet grape and is one of the most widely planted in the world. It was introduced in Australia during the earliest stages of our wine industry. Grenache produces wines that are fruity, full in flavor and have overtones of spice. The wine tends to have a soft light color with ruby edges.
Shiraz is a ripe, flavorsome wine with exotic spicy aromas, abundant berry flavors and a rich texture (see above).
Mourvèdre is challenging to grow with irregular yields and very-tight bunches but it thrives in warm, wind-swept areas. Mourvèdre wines are medium bodied with deep color and savory flavors providing an almost ‘meaty’ edge. On its own can be a bit too much for many wine drinkers.
The GSM blend usually has a deep crimson appearance, displaying intense berry fruit aromas with underlying smokey spice. It should taste easy on the pallet, not too complex, not too complicated with no one flavor overpowering the other if it is perfectly mixed.
Check out our Food and Wine Pairing suggestions to see the best choice for your rich Aussie red wines