Merlot

Haan Merlot prestige 2009, Barossa Valley, Australia

Drunk October 2013, Gymkhana, London

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The winery

The 45 acre (18 hectare) vineyard in the Barossa Valley which makes up the Hanenhof Estate, was initially purchased in 1853 by George Friedrich Schmidt for one pound an acre. It consists mainly of the sandy loam soils that dominate the Barossa Valley floor. These soils have proven excellent for producing some rich, luscious Shiraz and Cabernets.

The Barossa Valley is in South Australia, located 60 km northeast of Adelaide.

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Hanenhof Estate is owned by Hans and Fransien Haan, and was purchased in 1993, with the first wine produced in 1997. A few years later the property was expanded to 47 acres. Production is currently limited to approximately 4,000 cases, No grapes are purchased, and seasonal conditions sometimes dictate the quantities produced. 

The estate was set up focusing on Merlot, but it also produces small amount of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Semillon and Viognier overseen by Haan's vineyard manager, Robert Seelander.

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Most of the vines are on a simple vertical trellis system with moving wires to lift the foliage and expose the fruit to the sun for full development of flavour and character. The Haan philosophy is based on 'best practice' which means that the vineyard is run on a 'minimal input' system, offering considerable environmental protection. Chemical use is kept to an absolute minimum, as is irrigation and ground disturbance. This commitment to diligent natural resource management ensure that the vineyard has a long term sustainable future. Already this philosophy of providing the best possible conditions in the vineyard has been rewarded with some excellent wines from the property.

The wine

The merlot grapes in this Haan Merlot Prestige 2009 come only from the Hanenhof Vineyard. The vines are 18 years old, grown on a sandy loam with a 2 metre clay base. The vines are trellised on a single wire with two foliage wires to keep the foliage upright and expose the fruit to the maximum amount of sunlight. The fruit was allowed to ripen to 15° baume before picking and cropped at a level of 3.5 tonnes per acre.

This wine was fermented using a selected yeast to enhance fruit definition and depth.  The skins were plunged and pumped over three times per day and the wine allowed to rest on skins for seven days to allow for maximum colour and flavour extraction.  After malolactic fermentation the wine was racked into selected French oak barriques and allowed to mature for 24 months before bottling.

Fermented Grape Review

Dark purple in the glass with a powerful aroma of black cherry and plum. The palate is complex with toasted oak, spicey and intense fruit and acidity. Silky smooth, with structured tannins and a super long finish. Perhaps a little excessive sweetness but nothing major. The merlot grape is much derided (Miles - Sideways), but this Haan Prestige proves what can be done with this grape in the right way and in the right place!

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Dada 2 Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc 2009, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Drunk October 2013, Vinoteca, London

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The winery

Founded in 2006 by David Ramonteu and Kate Galloway, Dada Wines was established with the sole aim of creating unique, non-classifiable and exceptional wines. Based in Hawke's bay, New Zealand, they aim to produce unorthodox blends that encompass the best of the region’s diverse landscape and varieties.

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Partners in life and winemaking, David is from France and Kate is a New Zealander. 

David Ramonteu is from a winemaking background; he grew up in the mountainous Pyrenean farming and winegrowing region, where his family has an estate, Domaine Cauhape in Jurancon. David graduated from Bordeaux with a Master’s degree (1998), before joining French wine research company Oenodev as a consultant, work that took him around the world – and to New Zealand. David now lives in New Zealand, working for wineries throughout the country as a wine consultant.  His ongoing affiliation with Oenodev ensures he is kept abreast of new developments in wine technology.

New Zealand born Kate Galloway is chief winemaker for Alpha Domus winery. In addition, she works with David to produce wine under their labels, Dada and Alluviale. Kate had a career as a chef, including several years working in Europe, before returning home to pursue her love of wine, and her interest in New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry. She has a Bachelor of Wine Science (1998) from EIT Hawkes Bay in association with Charles Sturt University, graduating with Academic Excellence. 

Kate and David live by the sea in Hawkes Bay with their two young children, Gala and Saul, and a collection of ceramics, paintings, old cars and trinkets. 

They believe that blending enables them to create complex, complete, elegant and restrained wines that could not be made with the conventional constraints imposed by single vineyards, single terroir or single varieties. There aim is to create wines unlike any other that combine lightness and purity with depth and substance - "Throw away your textbook, reject the safety of the predictable, for the possibility of an extraordinary experience."

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Located on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay is a maritime climate and has a diverse landscape.  It encompasses high mountain ranges to the north, south and west that shelter the region from cool winds and weather and steps down towards the coast, flattening out to the plains and the Pacific Ocean.

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The wine

Dada 2 is blended red wine from the renowned Gimblett Gravels and Triangle regions.  It is predominantly Merlot with contributions from Syrah and Cabernet Franc, depending on the vintage. It references the exchange of wine that existed in the 19th Century between Bordeaux and Hermitage.

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The Gimblett Gravels winegrowing District, covering 800ha, is strictly determined by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860's. In the triangle region it is the special nature of the soils here that provide depth and flavour to the resulting wines, based on free-draining "red metal" gravels overlaid by alluvium derived from loess, volcanic ash and greywacke. The combination of these special soils with high sunshine hours, low rainfall and Growing Degree Days comparable to Bordeaux makes the Bridge Pa Triangle a unique viticultural area.

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Dada 2 is believed to be the first red wine made and bottled without any sulfur dioxide in NZ. The exact composition of each wine changes year to year, and is entirely determined by the quality of the fruit that particular vintage. We do not wish to rely on varietal composition for defining this wine. This composition is subject to vintage variation. Several varieties were vinified but did not make the final blend. The final blend in 2009 comprises 3 varieties –Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. 

It s a deep purple red out of the bottle. On the nose plum and berry fruits and spice. Beautifully balanced in the mouth, acid balancing the fine grained tannins and fruit. The finish is long and delicious.

Love the branding for Dada, the quirky creativity behind the brand. This is New Zealand wine but not as you know it. With top enviromental credentials and a Euro flair what's not to like here.

JOSEPH Moda, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk July 2012

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The winery

JOSEPH Moda is one of Oz Clarke's favourites being a consistant feature in his top 100 wines book which is published each year. It is recognised as being one of Australia's best Cabernet Sauvignon blends.

This McLaren Vale/Clarendon wine is made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from air dried grapes in the Italian Amarone style by wine makers Joe Grilli and Daniel Zuzolo. The grapes are placed on shaded outdoor racks for two weeks prior to crushing, concentrating the fruit so that it loses around 15% of its weight. 

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Claredon vineyard

According to the company's website "The very small crop in 2010 produced small, intense berries with excellent tannin and acid structure. Above average winter rainfall gave strong, healthy canopies and bud burst came early. Significant hail damage in September and October reduced the crop but a warm dry January and milder autumn produced small, intense berries with excellent  tannin and acid structure. The wine was aged in 50% new French and American oak barriques for 20 months."

The wine

The Joseph Moda can be summarised as intensively and totally unconventional flavoured. There's fruit, tobacco, cinnamon, vanilla on the palate which by all accounts gets better and better if you can face ageing it. At £30 on the expensive side, but the fact that this is so different to a standard Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale makes this one worth the extra few quid. I bought a few bottles and perhaps a couple will be spared for later consumption, but this one is hard to put down. If you're looking for a unique taste, I agree with Oz, this wine delivers on so many fronts.  Highly recommended.

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2009, Simonsberg, South Africa

Drunk July 2012

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The winery

Rustenberg has a wine-growing history dating back to 1682, when Roelof Pasman from Meurs, near the Rhine, recognised its wine-growing potential. In the early 1800s Rustenberg was divided by owner Jacob Eksteen and a section was given to his son-in-law, who named it Schoongezicht and sold it soon after. Rustenberg and Schoongezicht were at their peak around 1812. But by mid-century, recession coupled with disease caused the vineyard to go bankrupt.

Schoongezicht was rescued in 1892 by John X Merriman (who was to become Prime Minister of the Cape), and Rustenberg by his brother-in-law Sir Jacob Barry. Together they revitalised the farms. Fruit was sent to Covent Garden; new vines were grafted onto disease-resistant American rootstock; wines were exported to England and the Continent.

In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought Rustenberg, later acquiring Schoongezicht and reuniting the properties. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. The Barlows have been at the property for over 60 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm.

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The wine

The Rustenberg John X Merriman is a blend of  51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec The grapes are from vineyards in Simonsberg, near Stellenbosch in the Cape area of South Africa.

The separate batches were blended after 11 months and then returned to barrel for a further 9 months' maturation. (46% new and 54% 2nd- and 3rd-fill 225L French oak barrels).

The oak really hits you on the nose in this Merriman 2009 and there is plenty of flavour in multiple layers with heavy duty fruit interwoven with tannins and dry notes. Nice stuff, particularly at this discounted price from Waitrose. Recommended.