McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Merlot 2006
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McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Merlot 2006 Tasting Notes

Established in 1877, Australia's McWilliam's produces several wines for our market under their Hanwood Estate label. Though this $12 Merlot is sourced from six vineyards in three major Australian wine-producing states (hence the appellation South Eastern Australia), nearly two-thirds of the mix originates in the Riverina region of New South Wales. Drought and water allocation difficulties resulted in reduced yields for the 2006 vintage, but low yields can themselves promise quality advantages if handled with skill.

The McWilliam's Merlot is very nicely balanced in several key respects. The nose is warm, led by cassis, black plum, a touch of prune and some blackberry, backed up by the fragrance of cigar box, vanilla and some clove. The wine sees a mix of one- to three-year-old oak, both French and American; on the nose the oak effects are pleasant but restrained, a quality touch.

The sensible use of oak for the benefit of balance carries over into the palate. My mouth registered just a dollop of sweet for starters. Cranberry and blackberry lead the fruit, with acidity in pace, along with notes of chocolate, vanilla and tobacco. The fruit is ripe and well focused, but this is no one-dimensional fruit-forward wine. The supple tannins add another voice to the fugue, the sweet oak notes yet another. The finish is solid, with good tartness and lasting, well-integrated tannins.

Summing up, the wine is nicely balanced, mouth-filling, and an excellent value.

Verdict: Successful effort
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On the market, Merlot has seen a number of ups and downs over the years; ultimately, it is a fine international grape that can always produce good wine in the right hands.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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