Merlot with a green taste worth a look

Merlot with a green taste worth a look


Who: Santa Ema Winery
What: 2012 Merlot Reserve
Where: Imported from Maipo Valley, Chile
Why: Because a good Merlot is hard to beat
How much: $12

Liquor stores can be like grocery stores in that we frequent our favorites because we know the layout and it's convenient. But it's fun to occasionally be adventurous and drop into a new place.

I did that this past week to make a quick wine pick-up and was delighted with Maggie's at Douglas and Meridian.

My intention to be in-and-out took longer than expected because there were varietals and producers that were unfamiliar, so I was forced to browse. The store carries a nice selection of wines that are well organized and interesting.

I selected a Chilean Merlot Reserve from Maipo Valley because a good Merlot, if found, is hard to beat. This particular full-bodied choice received an 84 from Wine Enthusiast and was rated medium to high globally. I couldn't wait to pop the cork, although it was a handy screw cap that took even less time.

As expected, the process starts by evaluating the color. This Merlot falls in the middle of reds between the deep opaque color of ink and a lighter burgundy — exactly where it should be. The nose brought an aroma of coffee, which is always good and has me considering drinking wine with my breakfast.

My husband took the first sip and swore he tasted green beans. Green wines are popular right now, but the reference is usually to green peppers. I'm proud that he at least was in the right family of vegetables. Greens do dominate this Merlot and are mixed with the mild taste of dark fruits: black cherry and plum. The finish is spicy with tongue-tingling acidity.

Speaking of acidity, did you know a slight blue tinge on the rim of a red wine indicates higher acidity? Look for this next time you're checking the color and legs. Wines are good about giving us visual clues before we ever take the first drink.

Here are some other ways to evaluate visually to understand more about the wine in your glass.

Start with close examination from a straight angle, then get a side view, a tilted view and a swirl. So first for the straight angle, look directly down into the glass for depth of color, giving us a clue to density.

Then hold the glass to the light and give a slight swirl to observe the wine's complete color, not just the darkest center. A deep purple or black color will suggest a Syrah or Zinfandel, while something lighter may be a Pinot Noir.

A side view looking toward a light will determine clarity. You may see signs of unfiltered wines that look a bit murky or have sediment. This doesn't mean the wine is bad, only that we would want to filter before pouring more. But, seeing only clear color with some sparkle is always a good sign.

Then comes the tilt. This view allows the wine to thin out toward the rim to tell us about age, weight and acidity. Detecting a pale, watery edge suggests a possibly thin or young wine. If the edge color on a white wine is tawny or brown, it is an older wine and may be past its prime. For a red wine, the rim will be orange or rusty brick in color. (And as stated before, look for a bluish color to determine acidity.)

Lastly, give the glass a good swirl to see if "legs" or "tears" form on the sides. Good legs are an indication of higher alcohol and sugar content, which means they are most likely bolder and have more texture. We've learned so much about our wine and haven't yet taken a sip.

So, study the full color and edge rim before tipping the glass to imbibe. It will help determine likes, dislikes and develop personal tastes. Then keep a record of those discoveries to help with upcoming purchases, whether it's bought from a usual hang-out or an unanticipated jaunt.