November Celebrates Merlot, Tempranillo, Zinfandel & Carmenere
The harvest is over in the northern hemisphere and grape juice is fermenting. The scramble for December’s Christmas preparations has yet to hit top gear, so what better time than to sample some of our favourite grape varietals? November is home to Merlot Day, Tempranillo Day, Zinfandel Day and Carmenere Day. These special days give producers and wine lovers a chance to share the love about their favourite variety.
7 November: Merlot Day
International Merlot Day is celebrated on November 7 of each year. Merlot is a friendly and delicate varietal which, on the proper terroirs and harvested at its peak, produces wines characterized by voluptuous, generosity and distinction. In character, Merlot offers flavours of chocolate, plums, licorice, black cherries, blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries as well as jam, which depends on the levels of ripeness the fruit was allowed to achieve. It is round, fleshy and can be opulent in texture.
From Chile, the Tabali Pedregoso Gran Reserva Merlot 2017 ($40) comes ripe, full of red fruits such as raspberry and strawberry, and with a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it is full-bodied with nice tannins and great structure. The wine is well balanced with a nice acidity and lots of fruit. Then there are the ones from France like the Tertre Roteboeuf 2011 ($387), a fine 100% Merlot produced by Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, one of Bordeaux’s superstars. Merlot is also commonly used in blends to add softness and sweet fruit flavours, like in the example of the Dourthe Chateau Belgrave Haut Medoc 2011 ($112), revealing freshness and elegance in true Saint-Julien style.
9 November: Tempranillo Day
International Tempranillo Day takes place on the second Thursday in November, with is 9 November this year. Tempranillo is indigenous to Spain and used in the great Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines. It’s also is planted in 500,000 acres of the world’s vineyards (including Australia, Oregon and Argentina), making it the fourth most planted wine grape. Tempranillo is a diverse food-pairing wine with a similar tasting profile to Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon. Tempranillo is very versatile and can produce a range of wines.
The Belondrade Quinta Clarisa Rose Rueda 2017 ($46) from Rueda is a very light, fruit-driven, straight Tempranillo. This aromatic, fruity wine has a pomegranate colour and intense flavours on the palate. From Ribera del Duero, the Bodegas La Horra Corimbo Ribera Del Duero 2014 ($67) comes very expressive, deep and with a fruit character above the oak, almost imperceptible. Red and black fruit, in the line of the cherry and blackberry. This is typical of wines from this region, which tend to have bigger bodies than those from Rioja, like the Bodegas Roda RODA 2015 ($80). A blend of 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano, look forward to a deep red, bright and brilliant colour with expressive red fruit. Sensations of fresh cherry, light spices and some earthy wet notes. Medium volume, light but fresh, red fruit, fine tannin. Very delicate and very long.
15 November: Zinfandel Day
Organized by the Zinfandel Advocates Producers, the holiday is a worldwide celebration of the Zinfandel grape variety, intended to give Zinfandel lovers around the globe a platform to express their passion for the grape and the wines made from it. Zinfandel is a fruit-forward wine that is fantastic with comfort food such as chilli, pizza, pasta, and that great classic – meatloaf!
The Buena Vista Sonoma County Zinfandel 2017 ($59) is a true expression of Sonoma County’s terroir and an excellent representation of the varietal. On the nose, the wine shows concentrated notes of strawberry and red raspberry. Mouth-coating darker fruit flavours of blackberry and brambleberry grace the palate. Firm tannin structure, balanced acidity and a long finish make this wine the perfect complement to a pork sandwich.
24 November: World Carmenere Day
Most likely known as ‘Biturica’ by Romans, Carmenere was a staple Bordeaux wine grape until the phylloxera epidemic wiped out most French vines beginning in the 1860s. When wine production ramped up again decades later, many winegrowers avoided Carmenere, partly due to its susceptibility to mildew rot. Today the grape does well in Chile in South America, basking in a climate similar to portions of the Mediterranean: cool nights with hot days. The Cousino Macul Varietals Carmenere 2019 ($36) from Chile’s Maipo Valley is a brilliant example of a great 100% Carmenere. Intense red colour with a purplish rim, this wine offers fruity aromas of plums and strawberry, accompanied by spicy notes. In the mouth, it has a soft texture, ripe tannins and nice acidity.
Fun fact: Cousiño Macul, founded in 1856, is the only winery in Chile amongst those established in the 19th century that continues in the hands of the original founding family.