By James Atkinson

Merlot is a very challenging grape for winemakers, but properly executed it can be just as rewarding as Australia's archetypal Cabernet and Shiraz, argues Brown Brothers executive director, Ross Brown (pictured right hand side with James Halliday).

Brown this week presented Brown Brothers Patricia Merlot 2004 as a lone challenger to six Cabernet and Shiraz reds revealed by Australia's First Families of Wine at Monday's Unlocked tasting.

"We only make Patricia wines when they ring the bell at the highest level," Brown said.

"We've had two Merlots in the ten years of Patricia, so that highlights how tough it is to get to that really top level."

Brown said Merlot poses huge challenges in growing and fining, and is second only to Pinot Noir in terms of difficulties in site selection.

"It's a bit of a conundrum because there's not much good Merlot," Brown said.

Wrongly executed, he acknowledged Merlot is "quite sharp, quite short, and has really aggressive tannins".

"What is top level with Merlot in my opinion?" he asked.

"It's about having the same weight, same complexity and depth you get in a great Shiraz or great Cabernet."

"I'd like to think today you're going to see a Merlot that really does sit well amongst the best of the best of Cabernet and Shiraz," Brown said.

The Patricia surprised many Merlot naysayers, TheShout included, at Monday's AFFW tasting, making a strong showing amongst an assembly of some of Australia's top red wines, including Henschke's iconic Hill of Grace.

The Shout Team

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