Kitchen Tips

The best Merlot and other red varieties from Food's Top Wine Awards 2019

From simple fruity flavours to big, bold and jammy, Master of Wine Paul Tudor shares his top Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varieties from Food magazine's Top Wine Awards.

Look out for the Food Top Wine Award stickers on these bottles at supermarkets and selected liquor retailers.
Frontera Chile Merlot Concha y Toro 2018 ($12)
Bright plum, redcurrant and spice aromas, juicy and rounded to taste. Not a big or forceful wine, but a very satisfying, medium-bodied red with lovely, juicy tannins. An absolute steal.
Vidal Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($15)
An excellent buy here. This is not a heavy wine, but it has a pretty nose, with fresh berryfruit. In the mouth the tannins have been dialled back, as has the oak – it has simple and fruity flavours, but is nicely balanced nonetheless.
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon Concha y Toro 2016 ($18)
Classic nose of blackcurrant and eucalyptus, this is a medium-bodied, ripe but firm wine, with plenty of grainy tannins. The fruit is supported by some subtle oak; a very elegant wine and good buying.
Casillero del Diablo Carmenere Concha y Toro 2016 ($18)
Originally from Bordeaux, Carmenere found its home in Chile, which now has most of the world's plantings of this variety. This shows the typical aromatic lift of Carmenere, an almost minty, wild herb character, and the palate is a bit like a supercharged Cabernet Sauvignon, with thick tannins and a strong finish. One to surprise your wine buff friend.
Taylors Estate Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($18)
This has a classic minty nose, a combination of vanillin oak and cassis fruit. In the mouth there is generous, juicy fruit, and the tannins are taut and angular. This is a big powerful wine with a long finish.
Babich Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet 2016 ($20)
A dusty, curranty, smoky bouquet, there is some grip in the mouth, yet the tannins are not too heavy. Not especially complex, this is a generous, chunky, fruity wine that will pair nicely with red meats.
Crossroads Milestone Series Hawke's Bay Merlot 2016 ($20)
A friendly, welcoming, fruity wine; think raspberries or cherries in terms of fruit. There is a touch of oak and some juicy tannins on the palate, but otherwise a very easy drinking, rounded red that can be enjoyed alone.
Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2017 ($20)
I know that this wine has a lot of fans around New Zealand, but this latest vintage is a serious proposition. Raisiny, smoky bacon nose, juicy and smoky on the palate, some nice dusty tannins and a lovely finish. World class – could this be our most underrated red wine?
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke's Bay Merlot 2017 ($20)
Restrained fruit, jubey and curranty, meanwhile mid-palate is generous, ripe and juicy, with a tight, edgy finish. This is still very young wine, but the balanced tannins and nice integration of oak add a touch of class. Excellent quality.
Jim Barry The Cover Drive Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($26)
A typical Aussie Cabernet in the sense that it is a lot richer and riper than ours, with a cedar, cassis nose, underpinned with spicy, vanillin oak. This is a heavy bodied wine, yet everything is so ripe and rounded that it is very fine drinking right now on its own, or pair it with a big steak.
Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($26)
A big powerful wine, with lots of concentrated, almost jammy fruit; think blackberry jam. Here, however, there are also lots of tannins and oak. This has a sinewy, chewy palate and clearly the wine has years of life ahead. If you like big, bold reds, this is for you.