Celebrate National Merlot Month
It won’t be long before we hear more about beaujolais. November is the time when producers began to release their nouveau -- wines made from gamay grapes fermented for just a few weeks before they are released. The symbolic race to be the first producer to release the new vintage began in the 1970s. However, those who ignore the rush to buy the first beaujolais are in store for some magnificent cru wines named after the region’s picturesque villages.
Georges Duboeuf, affectionately known as the “King of Beaujolais,” is credited with establishing the popularity of nouveau beaujolais. He now distributes his wines to more than 80 countries.
These well-priced wines are a delightful transition to cooler weather and have proven to be a great quaffing wine. But their versatility also gives them a wide range of foods to complement -- turkey, chicken, pasta, burgers, pizza and the like.
Historically, Duboeuf is known for his wines from the Maconnais region of Southern Burgundy. A proliferation of attractive flower labels on his bottles has helped to popularize a plethora of moderately priced wines. But in a departure from his focus on the Burgundy region, Duboeuf has expanded a negociant effort in the Pays d’Oc region.
We tasted these new value-priced wines with Romain Teyteau, Duboeuf’s export director in the United States. We particularly liked two of the varietals that clearly have the American consumer written all over them.
The Georges Duboeuf Chardonnay Pays d’Oc 2017 ($12) displayed ripe peach and citrus fruit and an eyes-closed experience that shouted California chardonnay.
The Georges Duboeuf Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc 2017 ($12) was a very good pinot noir displaying new world flavors of bright cherry and strawberry notes with a hint of spice.
Duboeuf produces wines from all 10 Beaujolais crus in addition to beaujolais and beaujolais-villages.
Duboeuf tinkers with stylistic blends of their beaujolais-villages to cater to certain markets. According to Teyteau, the U.S. market receives a bolder, more tannic version while the Japanese enjoy a slightly lighter, less aggressive version.
Tasting some of the new crop of recently released Duboeuf wines impressed us with the amazing drinkability of the wines and the subtle but detectable differences between he different appellations.
Duboeuf markets two distinct lines of beaujolais -- the wildly popular “flower label” and several bottlings of estate bottlings from several Beaujolais crus.
Following are our favorites:
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Flower Label 2016 ($13). This wine definitely benefits from a slight chill as we found with all of the beaujolais that we tasted. Very refreshing with lively cherry and berry elements good structure and bright acidity. A terrific value!
Georges Duboeuf Saint-Amour Flower Label 2016 ($20). St. Amour is the northern-most appellation in Beaujolais, and this “wine of love” is released earlier than other crus to take advantage of Valentine’s Day. True to St Amour’s reputation for serious wines, this example exhibits ample, ripe, cherry fruit and a hint of iron. It could benefit from a few years in the bottle.
Georges Duboeuf Morgon Flower Label 2016 ($20). This Morgon is much more approachable than the St. Amour and is showing well now. Morgon, located in the center of Beaujolais, is known for powerful wines but this cherry-driven example shows a gentler side. One of our favorites of this tasting.
Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon 2016 ($22). This wine is bottled for Georges Duboeuf. The estate quality of the wine shows through with a mouth-filling mélange of raspberries and cherries with a bit of spice. Strong structure with perfecly balanced acidity to the ripe fruit. Delicious!
Chateau des Capitans Julienas 2015 ($22). Fermentation was a mix of traditional carbonic maceration and some classic yeast fermentation. The result is an expression of deep, macerated cherries with some black pepper notes. It is showing well now but could stand several years in the bottle.
October has been declared “international merlot month” for no other reason than to sell more merlot. Drinking it is optional. If you wish to exercise your options, here are a couple to try:
Markham Vineyards Merlot 2015 ($27). Bright cherry fruit flavors with a dose of vanilla and long finish. It is blended with cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah.
Mt. Brave Mt. Veeder Merlot 2015 ($80). The merlots from mountain-grown grapes are the best, as this one from atop Napa Valley’s Mt. Veeder will attest. Because of the elevation and rocky slopes, there is a lot of labor and care devoted to this wine. Plum, blueberry, and blackberry flavors laced with mocha highlight this outstanding merlot.
Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2015 ($98). One of the most legendary and award-winning merlots from Napa Valley, the Duckhorn is a monster of a wine with fresh cranberry, cedar and blueberry aromas chased by plum, cherry and mineral flavors. However sturdy its structure, the silky tannins make it a pleasure to drink now.
Columbia Winery Columbia Valley Merlot 2015 ($16). From Washington state, this medium-body merlot is blended with a little malbec and syrah to broaden its profile. Dark cherry flavors with hints of spice and vanilla.
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2015 ($12). From a producer who is synonymous with value, this wine has copious cherry and dark berry flavors.
Franciscan Merlot 2015 ($21). Blackberry and cherry notes with hints of oak-infused vanilla and spice. Rich texture and forward fruit make it a delicious wine for all occasions.
Goose Ridge Vineyards g3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($15). You get a mouthful of cherry and plum fruit with this great value from Washington state. Hints of tobacco and toffee.
Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($16). Juicy dark fruit flavors abound in this easy-to-drink blend from Washington state. Hints of cassis and mocha. Soft tannins.
Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($35). From the Russian River Valley, this well-priced pinot noir unveils simple red berry aromas and flavors with a dash of spice.