Now and again, I’ll resume my search for Great Australian Merlot. Granted, I could probably be putting my time and effort to better use; weeding my herb garden perhaps, or learning how to make my bed neatly enough so that it actually looks inviting instead of slightly sad. But the ragged way this varietal is often treated at the hands of many Australian vignerons keeps me coming back to the question: who amongst us is doing the grape justice?
Tasmania is an unlikely place to look for answers, perhaps, though the Wine Companion site lists several producers across the state making wines from Bordeaux varieties. This particular wine is a cellar door only offering from high profile producer Stefano Lubiana. Its price of $35 suggests it aspires to be more than just a fast moving quaffer. The nose immediately establishes a seriousness of intent. This is an introspective wine, studiously layering gentle aromas of red fruit, twig and black olive on a base of calm caramel. Ripeness seems ideally achieved here, fruit character showing the fullness one might expect without ever hinting at overripe excess. There’s a bit of funk too, a whiff of undergrowth and rotting leaves, that may be a function of age as much as inherent character.
The palate is medium bodied and structurally centred on acid. A gentle, clean entry shows sweet fruit and some leaf. The middle palate is tightly focused and cleanly articulated, never generous, impressively intense. There’s a ease here that feels breezy and light, and I’d be tempted to characterise this as a bistro wine were it not for a level of complexity and detail that could never sit well in a carafe. There’s no doubt this aims to be the real deal, a Merlot of elegance and complexity that never gives up the grape’s natural, easygoing advantages. Wines like this are apt to be underrated and will certainly never capture the attention of drinkers the way more extroverted styles can. But it’s a lovely drink, put together with care and a respect for the grape.
I’d be happy to drink this while I keep searching for the Great One.
Stefano Lubiana Wines