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10/02/2009

Merlot – vineyard walk in Wrattonbully

Merlot is without question, one of the more difficult red grape varieties to get right in both the vineyard and winery. As a variety, it continuously presents challenges that have the potential to dramatically undermine wine quality. The Wrattonbully Grapegrowers Association, in collaboration with the Yalumba Nursery will be holding a Merlot vineyard walk at the Smith & Hooper Vineyard at Wrattonbully on Thursday 26 February.

Ashley Ratcliff, agribusiness/technical manager – viticulture, at Yalumba said it would be “understandable” that no winegrowing region has claimed Merlot as its own, in such a way as the Coonawarra has claimed Cabernet Sauvignon or the Barossa has claimed Shiraz. But Ratcliff says there is a region that has taken on this challenge: Wrattonbully.

The chairperson of the Wrattonbully Grapegrowers Association, Neil Ottoson said there are already a number of wine producers in the region making great Merlot wines. Wine writers are singing the praises of Wrattonbully Merlot. In the recent editions of James Halliday’s top 100 wines, the Smith & Hooper Reserve Merlot was the only straight Merlot to make the list, while the Tapanappa ‘Whalebone Vineyard’ Merlot was selected by Mathew Jukes as his choice of Merlots for 2008. National and international wine shows are also endorsing the region. At the recent Mondial du Merlot, an international wine show aimed at highlighting the excellence of Merlot producers worldwide, the Smith & Hooper Reserve Merlot was one of the wines to be awarded a trophy. “The results are just a few of many good news stories about Merlot and Wrattonbully,” said Ottoson.

“The limitation in clonal variation in Australia has been one argument used for Merlot’s lack of performance over the years,” said Yalumba Nursery viticulturist Nick Dry. “The Merlot clone D3V14 is pretty much the only clone planted in Australia in large volumes. Australia’s best Merlots are made from this clone, so I don’t think Merlot critics can trash the variety if the argument is based purely on the clone. In my experience, poor management has more to do with poor wine than that of clonal selection,” said Dry. The Yalumba Nursery has other clones of Merlot (8R, Q45–15 and PDFS) planted at the Smith & Hooper vineyards, which are being continuously evaluated by viticulture and winemaking techniques.

The Wrattonbully vineyard walk is at the Smith & Hooper Vineyard at Wrattonbully on Thursday 26 February. The purpose of the vineyard walk is to view firsthand, the Merlot evaluation work undertaken by the Yalumba Nursery. In addition to the vineyard walk, a Merlot tasting and seminar on Merlot management will be conducted at the Joanna Hall.

For further information please contact either Neil Ottoson on 0418 844 822 or Nick Dry on 0411 487 495.

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