Sometimes you get wine as a present and that is perfectly fine, even if the wine isn’t that great, because you didn’t have to pay for it yourself. Sometimes, however, you get a bottle of wine as a present and it represents everything a good bottle of wine should be. Let’s be honest though, any time someone gives you a bottle of wine it’s pretty great. This week’s bottle, the Paoletti Bella Novello Merlot, 2004, was given to me at a secret santa gift exchange at work, and even though most of my coworkers don’t know how to differentiate between a decent bottle of wine from a bottle of Barefoot, this bottle was a very nice surprise! Sometimes Merlot can get a bad rap from the hundreds of cheap commercialized bottles that crowd the shelves of chain grocery stores. It’s important to remember, however, that even though you may have had a few bottles of bad Merlot this is still a first class grape variety.
The Merlot grape was originally used primarily in the blending of Bordeaux wine, of which Merlot often comprises a large amount, in France. The grape variety spread across Europe to Italy, Spain, and even to Germany. Fun fact, Merlot is said to have been named after a bird called the Merlau, which was attracted to eating these grapes. It is thought that the Merlot grape is the child of Cabernet Franc, which is said to have fathered several other well known varieties of grape, including Cabernet Sauvignon.
Merlot characteristics tend to be of darker red fruits, a soft finish, and medium acidity and tannins. Of course, these characteristics tend to vary based on the climate in which the grape is grown, which can give it a huge variety in taste. The grapes grown in cool climates can sometimes be mistaken for a Cabernet Sauvignon (they are related, after all), due to its more earthy flavors. The Bella Novello Merlot is from California, so it’s a warmer climate Merlot. Characteristic of its climate, this bottle has rich dark fruit flavors with some chocolatey undertones. It is very well balanced with silky smooth tannins and medium acidity. There are hints of the oak barrels it was aged in, but not overpoweringly so, making it a very nice, well aged bottle of wine. You can tell it is a more aged bottle of wine by the brownish undertones that appear in the color of the wine, which has a deep purple-brown hue. I have no idea how much this bottle cost, or even where you might be able to get it, since I couldn’t find much about it online. Overall I would rate it highly at a 9.3, if you are able to find a bottle you should definitely give it a try.
Do you have a recommendation for a great wine I should feature on Bottle of The Week? Let me know!