Luscious, velvety, approachable, little wonder Merlot has an entire day dedicated to its many merits. International Merlot Day takes place annually on 7 November, inviting relaxed wine lovers and serious oenophiles alike to take the time to relish this big Bordeaux varietal. Of course, dedicated Merlot lovers will need little encouragement to open a bottle containing their favourite tipple.
For those not yet familiar with Merlot, it is pronounced mehr-low, with a suitably French affectation. But it is difficult to imagine not having heard of this popular grape before, considering that there are more Merlot grapes planted in Bordeaux – and the whole of France – than Cabernet Sauvignon!
Merlot is grown and enjoyed across the wine-drinking world. Some prefer a 100% Merlot wine, but Merlot is beautiful in blends too. This is because it has a soft appeal and texture due to the fact that it’s not heavy on tannins.
One wine estate that has perfected Bordeaux-styled blends is De Toren, a small yet powerful estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, that is known for producing some of the most luxurious wines in the world. Like the ruby-hued De Toren Z, which benefits from ocean-facing vineyards that are high in clay content, making them intensely suited to the planting of Merlot – echoing Bordeaux’s Right Bank approach. All “Noble Five” Bordeaux varietals are featured in the De Toren Z, but Merlot is dominant.
A uniquely South African rendering of the Bordeaux style, produced on a mere 22 hectares situated on Stellenbosch’s Polkadraai Hills, this Merlot-rich red wine has garnered plenty of international attention since its maiden vintage. At Mundus Vini 2012, the international judging panel reviewed 6000 wines, yet awarded the De Toren Z 2010 vintage the coveted Gold.
This year, the reputed UK wine critic Tim Atkin reviewed Z at 93/100 points, while the USA’s respected Wine Enthusiast Magazine scored it at 91/100 points. If you’re intent on celebrating Merlot this International Merlot Day, then why not celebrate it with its very best expression?