“He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.” -Martin Luther, German priest (1483–1546)

I guess one of the problems with being a wine writer and lifelong aficionado of the vine is that I often have a tendency to compare every new bottle to the best I’ve ever had, instead of just enjoying what’s in front of me for what it is.

Thankfully, I opened a bottle of Aussie Merlot the other day to partner with one of my favourite Zombie bashing films, Resident Evil and it’s helped reset my appreciation barometer.

Yes folks, Resident Evil, a dish of warmed up hot pot and a bottle of Yalumba Y Series Merlot turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Merlot is one of the classic grapes of Bordeaux where it particularly shines in Pomerol and St Emilion but it was the Aussies who really made it dance in the 80’s when their super ripened versions burst onto our palates with all that soft plummy fruit.

I’ve been hooked ever since and to be honest, it’s my go to grape when I just need a hug from a bottle on a cold evening; mind you these days it’s facing intense competition from the good old fashioned Gin and tonic.

It isn’t just the difference in sunshine levels that makes Aussie Merlot stand out from the style made famous in Bordeaux however, it also comes down to wine making styles.

The Bordeaux growers harvest the grape earlier in order to retain some of the fresh acidity which results in the wine displaying more raspberry flavours and having a lower alcohol level than those of the land down under.

There’s a real skill to getting it right when you leave the grapes to ripen longer though and too many Australian winemakers have been guilty of overdoing the flavours in their drive to create a classic.

I’ve had one or two Hunter Valley merlots that should read ‘dilute to taste’ on the label and the result is just too overpowering; Yes folks, you definitely can have too much of a good thing.

If, like myself, you love the classic Bordeaux style with the vegetal touches and mild tannins but would like just a wee bit more fruit without going daft, then the country to watch at present is South Africa.

Their style tends to be a halfway house between the two making them easy to approach but retaining enough complexity to make them really interesting partners to rich dishes.

California have also put their own stamp on the grape by maximising the fruits and velvety tannins while strangely retaining some of that fresh acidity making them some of the best barbeque and party wines you can find.

For me personally however, Merlot is always at its best when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, preferably as the slightly junior partner in New world styles and the senior partner in the old world versions.

I love both grapes but, blended together they are like Torvill and Dean, more than the sum of their individual parts and I hope the love we have for each other grows and grows in the years to come.

Anyway, I’ve had two of the 8 grandkids this afternoon and we’ve watched Baby Shark on youtube about a hundred times so I definitely need a Merlot now.

Pip pip until next week.

SUD Merlot, Australia

I know, it sounds like a washing powder advert but thankfully its a celebration of smooth brambly fruits. - Lea&Sandeman £13.50

Juniper Crossing Merlot, Australia

A classic from Margaret River with ripe blackcurrant and raspberry flavours mingling nicely with toasted vanilla. Delicious.- Davy’s Wine Merchants £14.95

Gerard Richardson MBE, Drinks columnist for Newsquest