Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Celebrating New Year with Merry Edwards

It was mid-2005 when I first heard of Merry Edwards as the Pinot Noir winemaker to watch out for in California. After tasting her wine in several occasions, I concluded that it is one which could challenge the Burgundy eventually. I decided to bring in this wine to share with my customers this new year, also to provide an insight into the Californian winemaking scene.

For the past 10 years, American wine has been viewed as expensive in most parts of Asia compared to the other new world winemaking countries. It is partly due to the exchange rate and transportation cost in comparison to its counterparts. As with most agricultural sectors, the supply glut of grapes in America has also initiated a series of corrective action to prevent an oversupply of the wine in the market. The growers and wineries have taken hard steps to sustain the industry as a whole. Fortunately, the wine industry has come around with quality wine at value prices. This has benefited the American consumers and we are beginning to see the spread over effect to its exports.

The most noticeable benefits are the fine winemaking techniques adopted by those wineries who have survived the consolidation phase. They know that it is quality and finesse that will bring them far and will eventually challenge the French wine status in the world.

Merry Edwards, like many premium winemakers, has employed a mix of traditions and technology in her methods of winemaking. I tasted two different vintages of her Pinot Noir (Russian River), 2003 and 2004. Merry cold soaked her grapes prior to fermentation which she has moved to using a higher temperature than before. Research has shown that cold soaking will extract more color and tannins from the grapes skins (the component extracted is called monomeric anthoyanins). A warmer fermentation could also prepare the grapes for a deeper aroma profile during aging. I recalled the 2003 vintage as one that has an upfront cherry nose with hints of mint. The color is bright red and very delightful to the eyes. There is a lot of cranberry flavors and a smooth texture. The tannins is refined and pleasant, mixed with a slight sweetness which suggests a favorable 2003 climate.

I decided to usher in the new year with Merry’s Russian River Pinot Noir 2004. Instead of watching the usual count down on TV, we decided to rent a movie called DejaVu (starring Denzel Washington) to accompany this wine. I thought the name of the movie is really appropriate for this tasting.

With the movie running and our dog falling asleep in his sofa bed, I decided that it is time to open the wine. It greets me with a nose of cherry and almond, with the latter stimulating some gastronomic juice. The aroma profile seems to be more complex than the traditional Pinot Noir I have tried, with additional hints of jasmine and plum as the wine breathes. The palate is a little more spicy than the 2003 vintage and reminds me of mushroom as well. The tannins are more pronounced but very well integrated into the finishes of the wine. I think the wine has a good aging potential and for those who are impatient, I will recommend a quick decanting to enhance the drinking pleasure. Overall, there is a clear difference in the wine’s aroma and palate presentation between the two vintages, I thought the 2004 is more robust and closer to the style of Burgundy.

Merry Edwards is probably the most unique winemaker in America, especially her Pinot Noir. I was told that her wine is now adored by the Japanese consumers and I can understand the reason. I hope my customers will like it too. More of their comments later.

My Best Wishes to all my friends in a prosperous and healthy 2007!

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd
Website: http://www.wine-treasures.com
Email: limce@singnet.com.sg



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