Considering Cono Sur‘s Pinot Noir remains my corner shop / supermarket wine of choice – and has done for going on two or three years now – I find it pretty odd that I’ve never tried their Merlot before: either their common or garden Merlot or this spangly several-pounds-more-pricey Reserva model.
Knowing (and loving) the Pinot Noir I was expecting from this bottle an amped-up version of the non-Reserva, which would be an amped-up version of anything equivalent price or varietal from Europe: probably a bit on the boozy side, maybe with a bit of oak or spice, or hopefully both. But it would be Merlot, and therefore probably, ultimately, a bit bland, and a bit boring.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t tried it; I don’t buy much Merlot.
What I got was more than I bargained for, frankly: the rich and pungent aroma of heady black fruits and cinnamon bark was way more appetising than I imagined it’d be. The thick, dark liquid coating the inside of the glass after a swirl, reluctantly dripping back into the bowl and leaving a distinct hue of purple behind, even when the liquid at the bottom was still again.
I actually had a bit of a cold when I opened this, and did so because it was the least intriguing and/or mysterious out of the batch I ordered with my Ocado delivery (I have become one of those wine buyers that follows the deals, and there was a 25%-off-six-bottles thing going on).
Really pleased with the wine though; Cono Sur have done it again. A rich, thick and spicy Merlot experience with much more of a full flavour than the insipid overly fruity wines I’ve come to expect when this grape’s served up as a single varietal. It was shot through with plum and damson with hints of the aforementioned cinnamon and a twist of licorice on the woody finish. Sure, it was a fruity affair, and it wasn’t quite as tannin-thick or as spliced with bitterness as a good Cab Sav or Shiraz, but the balance of flavours was so spot-on and the taste journey so satisfying from start to finish that a grape that often leaves me wanting more – more complexity, more tartness to counteract the jammy fruits, and more of a bite on the finish – in this instance delivered to the excess of my expectations.
Chile has been serving me well in both quality and value in recent months, so it’s nice to be reminded of the winemakers that first got me into the nation’s produce and had a pretty big hand in getting me interested in wine in the first place.
You can order the Cono Sur Reserva Merlot from Ocado for £6.99 at the time of typing (though it’s normally more) and they stock several other bottles from the winery: including the regular Pinot Noir and the Gewurz, both of which are long-time favourites of mine.