This week we are heading to Mendoza, Argentina’s principle wine making region, to sip and compare two single varietal wines from Tempus Alba. But first, a little background on these two important grapes.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are two widely cultivated red grape varietals. While ‘Cab’ is one of the world’s most renowned red varieties for wine production, Merlot surged into popularity in the 1990’s as consumers discovered that they could enjoy aromas and flavors similar to those of Cabernet in a fleshier, softer wine with smoother tannins. One thing they have in common: they’re both major grapes from the Bordeaux region of France.
Merlot grapes are identified by loose bunches of large berries with a blue-black color, lighter than Cabernet grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins. Compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar content, lower malic acid, and normally ripe up to two weeks earlier.
Merlot is softer, fruitier, and contains smoother tannins than cabernet sauvignon, yet displays many of the same aromas and flavors – black cherry, currant, cedar, and green olive – along with mint, tobacco and tea-leaf tones.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Cabernet is its ability “to travel”, to set down its roots in distant lands and still produce something that is recognizably as Cabernet whatever the circumstances. Cabernet Sauvignon is admired for its intensity and classic flavors of currant, plum and spice, often with distinguishing herb, olive, tobacco, cedar and anise notes, among others. The style of Cab is strongly influenced by the ripeness of the grapes at harvest. When they are picked early, the grapes are high in pyrazines and will exhibit pronounced green bell peppers and vegetal flavors. When harvested overripe the wines can taste jammy and may have aromas of stewed black currants. Some winemakers choose to harvest their grapes at different ripeness levels in order to incorporate these different elements and potentially add some layer of complexity to the wine.
TempusAlba Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – An exceptional wine made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a bright red brown color. On nose it offers black pepper and ripe plum with touches of vanilla and cocoa. On palate it is deep and complex; green pepper and toasted notes appear with velvety tannins that envelop the mouth. Full bodied, with a long and pleasant final. Pairs excellently with beef and mushroom sauce ($13.99).
TempusAlba Merlot 2008 – This wine was made under a prefermentative cold maceration, preserving intense red fruit aromas and lending it complexity. Very well balanced with soft and ripe tannins, good structure, and notes of ripe plums and cassis ($13.99).
– Soledad Claveria