And so I return from university sans a few layers of tooth enamel after tasting my way through a week’s worth of wines with solidly pedagogical intent; not entirely a pleasure, but I do feel in the zone. I may write up some of those tastings later on but, for now, I’m eager to try this new Mount Avoca release and see how it fits into the confusing, incoherent, yet lovable landscape that is Australian Merlot.
Thankfully, it doesn’t occupy the little stagnant pond where overripe Merlot goes to ferment and die. No, this is satisfyingly savoury on first sniff, with nary a hint of crassly pumped up fruit, an impression reinforced by tasting. Quite dark in character, the aroma presents black fruits and sour cherries, twigs and brown spice. It’s quite a generous nose and, at the same time, one that communicates restraint, as if the fullness of the fruit is somehow kept in check. Oak handling is especially good here, adding complexity and framing the fruit sympathetically.
The palate is quite friendly, and it’s here the wine becomes more like what some drinkers may expect from New World Merlot. There’s a softness to the black berry fruit that registers early on the palate and expands through the middle, at which point vanilla and spice oak pick up the line. Acid is certainly present but not firm enough to bring things out of relaxed territory. Tannins do a bit more in this regard as they settle on the tongue through the after palate and lightly dry the finish. What really makes this wine for me is the decided savouriness of the fruit; it turns what might have been a caricatured style into something adult and interesting.