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Two new Merlots to savour


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Having been pecked by Merlettes, Whitey compares two top new Merlots – one from WA’s Margaret River and the other from Victoria’s King Valley.

Blue Poles Margaret River Reserve Merlot 2011
$40; 13.9% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points

Those who liked the outrageous fru fru floral fragrances of the deadly Blue Poles Reserve 2010 (94+; reviewed here in April) may find this bigger, more muscular sweetheart not quite so alluring at first. It has the same deep reek of prunes and black cherries welling below, but the top notes here are more along the lines of pale coffee-coloured, slightly sweaty flesh. Not stale, off sweat, mind you. I mean the slightly crusty, salty, fresh sort you’ll find on a Tahiti beach. Or Margaret River, for that matter, duh. It’s a Margaret River thing. Specially when the Indian Ocean’s deliverin’ big. [Nail your terroir, Whitey.] And it has a slight white-pepper tingle, too.

When it tumbles over the little waterfall of your front teeth it turns your mouth into a very dark pool of swirling mystery. Blackcurrant pressings and juniper tannins well up across the tongue and just sit there. Like for five minutes. They don’t even look at you.

It’s so far removed from the 2010 you could be fooled into thinking this was made by a different person. Nope. It was made by a different, warmer vintage. And it serves to rule several bold underlines beneath my previous assertion that if you look closely into Blue Poles you’ll see pretty much all the Merlot goalposts in this country, staggering through that crazy swirl of colour. This is very good wine. Cellar.

King River Estate King Valley Merlot 2012
$20; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; 80 points

This wine is included because King River was mentioned by various Lesser-spotted Eastern Merlettes when I recommended my Australian favourites here in April. These wealthy enthusiasts wanted to know why this, their preferred Merlot producer, was not included. So here we go.

In the floral fragrance department, this pretty thing is along the style of the Blue Poles 10. Its top-notes are outrageously frivolous. Bit lower down, its fruits are closer to the Blue Poles 11, but with old dried bay leaf in place of pepper, and none of that wine’s staunch deliberation. Deeper down still, you get close to fennel and licorice. These edgy notes give the flavour its attack, a word one probably wouldn’t often expect to associate with Merlot. Then the fruits sort of saunter along behind, like the Bash Street Kids. There’s plenty of ’em, buy they seem too young, unkempt and disinterested.

There’s none of that staunch organising tannin that gives the above wine its might. That said, on the other hand, maybe it’s owner/winemaker Trevor Knaggs’ transition to biodynamic management which gives this wine its remarkable viscosity: without being hot it seems to have the young vinous unction of a wine of two or three full per cent more alcohol. It’s thick and oily of texture. Wild yeast, older barrels … it gets the full treatment in the vintage shed, but we end up with fruit squish in place of tidy finishing tannic dryness. In which case I can’t wait to get a cool bottle into a good curry joint: that young fruit could handle complex hotties really well.


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