Merlot sits astride the spectrum of red wines, pretty much bang in the middle. If syrah lies on the big end of things, with big body and its evocative opaque mystery, pinot noir lies on the other, with lightness of feel and look.
Middleness does not imply mediocrity. Here I’m talking about inherent qualities of the fruit, not the wine end-product.
Cool-climate merlots tend toward the red fruit, tobacco, tar, structure and tannic end of matters. Warm-climate merlots are more in the black fruit, cherry, chocolate, juicy acids and silky tannin mould. As with any complex product, nothing is ever binary in winemaking, but these generalizations hold reasonably well.
This Chilean number fits the cool-climate model. That’s interesting because when one thinks of Chile’s Central Valley, we wouldn’t immediately connect it with, say, the Right Bank of Bordeaux. But there they are, all of the recognizable characteristics; red fruit, medium-sweet tobacco and dry vanilla on the nose. Lively fruit with an earthy thread combine with structured tannins to produce a finish that lingers just so.
Chilean red wines seem to produce an earthy peppery note that is nowhere near peppery; like a kind of seasoning, as you’d expect on a good steak. It’s not salty, but feels like the equivalent in the wine. Here it is mild and only adds a nice half-layer of complexity.