t’s more than 15 years since the film Sideways changed the real-world market for two red wine varietals with its protagonist’s famous rant about the banality of merlot and the marvels of pinot noir. Ever since, merlot has been perceived by some as just a little bit "too accessible". Which is a pity, because in the hands of a skilled winemaker there probably isn’t any such thing as an uninteresting varietal.
Proof of this is provided by the new Grande Provence merlot 2018. The wine was recently launched at the estate to much appreciative nodding and "mmm"-ing from the assembled wine journos.
The move is a first for Grande Provence. It has traditionally included merlot in its flagship Bordeaux-style blend, but the estate’s up-and-coming young winemaker, Thys Smit, deemed it worthy of also being presented as a single-varietal wine.
"With its fruit purity, elegance and complexity, [this merlot] has evolved into an elegant, standalone wine in our portfolio," he says. "The vineyard is fanned by lovely, cooling sea breezes, which lead to smaller berry formation with a lot of concentration. This allows us to extract and develop an elegant tannin structure."
Smit says he has a particular fondness for merlot. (And he’s probably youthful enough to have never seen Sideways!)
Soft and subtle, the Grande Provence merlot 2018 is a smooth, medium-bodied wine that’s extremely easy to drink right now, but will also reward cellaring.
It’s available from the estate’s online store at R165 a bottle.