Most of the world’s Merlot is undistinguished. Its default expression is a soft, rounded wine lacking tannin, acidity, and character. “Global” merlot is smooth and easy, but neither distinctive nor particularly interesting.
But in Bordeaux, Merlot thrives as an essential component to the region’s most iconic wines. And its center stage – where the grape reaches its ultimate expression – are the Right Bank towns of Pomerol and St-Emilion.
Today’s Grand Cru St-Emilion from the Chateau Montlisse comes from the exceptional 2015 vintage. It’s punchy, unmistakably well made, and particularly in 2015, way overperforms its price.
Made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, it’s a rich, velvety blend with a classic combination of dark fruit and spice. Critic Jeb Dunnuck awarded 92 points, finding it “seriously good” and “sexy,” with its “beautiful balance” making it “already hard to resist.”
The mouth is rich and muscular, with fleshy, approachable tannins supporting the gorgeous fruit. Look for notes of plums and toast with cassis, dark chocolate and dried violets. These days good Bordeaux often carries a three- or four-figure price tag, but it’s good to remember that it doesn’t have to. Serve this with good steak or veal, or something roasted on a Sunday afternoon.
Montlisse St-Emilion Grand Cru 2015
bottle price: $38
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