Capital Wines The Backbencher Merlot 2010

Capital Wines’ premium Kyeema Merlot piqued my interest in this second label wine. I find it endlessly interesting to see how producers differentiate their lower level releases from their premium labels. Some seem to chase vastly different styles (for example, heavily oaked reserves wines versus fruit-driven entry level wines), while others attach a more nuanced appeal to more expensive wines through exotic vineyards, small quantities, and other canonical markers of vinous authenticity, singly or in combination. In this case, the back label suggests fruit for this wine is sourced from the Kyeema vineyard, the very same vineyard whose grapes power the reserve wine. I presume, therefore, the difference lies in part in fruit selection.

Immediately on smelling it, the oak treatment here is less prominent, pushing fruit forward in the aroma profile. The fruit’s character is particularly interesting. It has the same savouriness as the Kyeema, with perhaps a simpler touch and more rounded expression. It remains light years away from many other Australian Merlots in character. The fruit seems at times to lack vibrancy and freshness, though this does not detract from its generosity and distinctiveness.

The palate is, in some ways, more approachable than the Kyeema, being less bright with acid and hence more mellifluous in flow. Tannins are also less astringent here, allowing the wine to relax through the back palate. Despite all this, it’s still a well-structured wine, showing good flow and focus. Flavours sit in a red berry and herb spectrum, fruit three quarters savoury and one quarter strikingly sweet. It’s an interesting tension, not entirely resolved, overridingly fun. I like this very much, despite its more modest aspirations compared to the Kyeema wine. Both wines are valuable expressions of this varietal in an Australian context.

Capital Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

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