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Tabor Adama Merlot, 2008

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Merlot has a certain….reputation, thanks to films like Sideways, where Paul Giamatti‘s character goes into a rampage after being offered Merlot. Generally, most of the anti-Merlot contingent stake the claim that Merlot is an overly soft, unstructured and uninteresting wine. And they are largely correct.

Merlot is a generally soft and plummy grape which, in the right hands, can actually make a delightful and interesting wine (see wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion as classic examples of Merlot done right). However, California-style winemakers have developed a tendency to allow Merlot to overripen on the vine and thus overbalance the resulting wine on the side of fruit, at the expense of tannin, acid and overall complexity.

Now, the bright side to these wines is that they are very friendly to the neophyte in the wine world. Because these wines are so fruity and low in acid and tannin, they make for fun and easy wines to drink without forcing the drinker to delve into the wine and unlock its complexities (because it has little). The down side of this is that they make for easy wines to drink without forcing the drinker to delve into the wine and unlock its complexities (because it has little).

So, in generaly, I will recommend a Merlot when someone is interested in learning about the basics of wine and is not “ready” for the heavy-duty wines like what you see in Bordeaux or Barolo or other areas of California. Merlot is an inexpensive (usually) and basic (usually) wine that will likely appeal to anyone’s palate, regardless of their wine knowledge or lack thereof.

All that being said, these qualities of Merlot, particularly in its Californian iterations, is a double-edged sword. Because of its reputation as a mild and fruity wine without a lot of complexity, many wine geeks will turn their nose at an offering of Merlot because of the Californian practice of over-ripening the fruit so that the resulting wine is uber-fruity and soft and full-bodied (longer ripening = more sugar = more alcohol = more body). But this lack of complexity and interest-driving wine makes for a bad reputation, thus Paul Giamatti’s subsequent outburst on film.

Now to today’s subject: Tabor Adama Merlot. This is an Israeli Merlot from Tabor winery, which has often been held in high regard for its quality New World style wines. The Adama line is their mid-range line of wines, encompassing several varietals, including today’s Merlot.

This is one wine, sadly, that Paul Giamatti would again rail against. Full-bodied and relatively low in tannin and acid. The plush plummy fruits run wild without the requisite structure to keep the wine interesting and food friendly. I keep trying Merlots with the hopes of finding some truly nice ones that break this long-held trend of flabby California-style wine, but this is not one of them. Particularly disappointing is the price tag: $25-30.

Now, where does this wine have merit? It is a well-known label and because of its soft, plummy qualities, is very popular among those that like very fruity wines. The label is attractive as well, making for a nice gift.

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