Our country is preoccupied with Pinot Noir, but with a global view, it’s the Bordeaux varieties that are in flavour. Merlot, remains the friendliest and fleshiest, and most accessible of these, but as we know it can attain great heights, in the like of Ch. Petrus in Pomerol. Now that’s one wine I don’t get to taste and drink regularly... Twenty years ago, Merlot was the big thing in New Zealand. And Grant Edmonds was, and still is one of the star makers of the variety. His own little project Redmetal Vineyards started with a flourish, but as his duties as chief winemaker at Sileni Estates grew, the Redmetal label took a step back. Just recently, we’ve seen some good signs of revitalisation of Redmetal, so I’m sure things will see a return to prominence.
Grant’s top label at Redmetal was ‘The Merlot’. Super-duper with ripeness and extract, sweetness and oak, but retaining a degree of elegance. Well, the first release of 1998 wasn’t like that. It was truly a big, bold grunter. Then a surprise in style with the 2000, partly a result of the vintage, but also a conscious decision to tone things down a bit. With the A-Prentice’s celebration, SWMBO and I dug out two magnums of The Merlot, one from each vintage.
The 1998 Redmetal ‘The Merlot’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot (1.5 L) is a classic and faithful representation of that hot, hot and dry vintage. The wine still black in colour with great depth, but showing a little garnet and brick on the rim. Packed with powerful aromas of ripe black berry and black plum aromas, with layers of secondary dried herb-game notes, more the game than herbs, actually. Dense and solid on palate with masses of sweet fruit, and plenty of funky, game-like and cedar-stalk and black herbal notes. This appears a touch bretty, but all the other flavours more than compensate. Structured and grainy, but with the ripeness and sweetness to all work. Those with sensitive noses and palate found it too much. Those forgiving enough were wowed by its sheer size and presence.
Then the 2000 Redmetal ‘The Merlot’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot (1.5 L). Interestingly in a different shaped bottle, tapered to the bottom, and shorter than the 1998. Dark red colour with garnet. Far more elegant and restrained on nose, stylish even, but a trace of the herbaceous greens peeking through. There’s depth and freshness, and liveliness, and no real secondary character dominating. Just a touch of earth. Grant knew about brettanomyces by now. Then remarkably refined on palate. Silky and seamless with very fine tannins. More redcurrants than plums, and fresh acidity. The wine has wonderful linearity. Most people found this an easier wine to enjoy. Grant knew he was on the right track with a more stylish style. The 2000s have shown this finesse with other labels, so a cooler year, it’s turned out to be another classical one.