If any variety has gained a favourable reputation because of texture rather than flavour, it is Merlot. In the mind of the average punter, it produces wines that are “smooth” and almost nothing seems to convince him or her otherwise. It is curious, to say the least, that while so many South African examples are thin and weedy, the public looks past this.
There are many reasons to explain Merlot’s generally poor performance under local conditions: inappropriate site selection, the wrong clones and the variety’s high sensitivity to water stress. Suffice to say, not much gets consumed at Chez Eedes.
Over the weekend, however, a super bottle of Merlot 2006 from Thelema in Stellenbosch. Red fruit and milk chocolate on the nose while the palate was rich and indeed smooth textured but not lacking in freshness (score: 16.5/20). If you get to drink Right Bank Bordeaux regularly, I suspect you’re going to have an overly positive view of what Merlot is capable of but this Thelema did suggest that success with the variety beyond the confines of Pomerol and St.-Emilion is not impossible.