Irvine Grand Merlot 1996

This smells nothing like a fifteen year old Eden Valley Merlot. The absurdity of that statement will, of course, be evident to those with a knowledge of this wine’s place in the Australian wine canon – it’s probably the only Eden Valley Merlot you’d think about cellaring for anywhere near this long, so it in fact tastes exactly like what it is – an exceptionally good fifteen year old Eden Valley Merlot. And, on the basis of this tasting, it’s a shame there are so few such wines.

When there’s a level of quality present, as there is with this wine, one’s experience of drinking it is as much a matter of timing as anything else. So the question becomes: are the elements ideally balanced right now? There’s a gorgeous smack of sweet primary fruit of a red berry character, a firm overlay of tertiary aromas and a dark framework of firm, coffee-tinged oak. So far, so good.

The palate makes my own answer to the question clear; this is surely drinking at its peak. As fascinating and beautiful as fully resolved old red wines can be, I usually prefer them in a state of maximum complexity, displaying a mixture of old and young wine characters. This retains an abundance of primary fruit, sweet and luscious, alongside the old leather and mushroom notes that accumulate only through an extended afternoon nap in bottle. Though, structurally, this has enough grunt to go even further, I like that its tannins remain slightly aggressive and primary, because they provide a link to its origins, allowing me to experience several moments in time all at once. The wine is simultaneously young, middle aged and old, jumping between all of its dimensions with elegance and poise, accumulating pleasures with each leap.

Ultimately, what is most astonishing about this wine is its freshness, and how that freshness is utterly transportive. I see in this wine its formative moments — vigorous green vines collecting energy to fill the beautiful berries that in turn filled this bottle — and through it my own life and the sense of discovery that characterises adolescence but which fades into rarity as one grows older. Thank goodness for those things that help me to remember.

Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

2 thoughts on “Irvine Grand Merlot 1996

  1. This is a wine I have always wanted to try but the $100 price tag has always given me pause. Nevertheless I love the fact that Irvine has had a committment to Merlot over a couple of decades that virtually no one else in Australia has had. Great to hear the Grand Merlot lives up to its reputation.

    • I’ve felt the same way for a long time so it was gratifying to see that it’s actually a good wine; so good that I’m not sure why others haven’t followed suit.

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