90 pts Wine Advocate May 2021
The 2019 Downes Family Merlot starts juicy and dusty with delightful layers of dusty plum, sour cherry and soft elements of juicy tobacco, hints of oak and a gentle display of pencil lead. Medium to full-bodied, the wine delivers a balanced structure with lifting tannins and succulent acidity, before flavors of black plum and dark cherry skin sway across the mid-palate. The wine concludes with a persistent tannic edge and lingering flavors of blackberry and spiced plum compote. 2021-2028
The grapes are picked from a small 3 hectare vineyard. The vineyard is divided up into 5 different parcels each with its own respective clone and these are all picked together for a 5 way clonal co-ferment. The bunches are chilled to 3ºC before being sorted on a conveyor and destemmed. Berries are hand sorted, before cold maceration ensues for 3 to 6 days at 8ºC. The 5 way clonal ferment is inoculated with a commercial winemaking yeast. Fermentation temperatures vary between 26 – 30ºC. After pressing, the wine is racked and left to complete its malolactic fermentation and maturation in old 4 to 5 year old French oak barriques for 9 months.
Considerable emphasis is placed on maximising the different French and Italian merlot expressions in the vineyard but picked and vinified all together and matured in older French barrels before final blending. The wine has a fragrance of ripe red fruits such as plums and dark cherries, with earthy complexity and yet still expressing minerality. Maintaining a good acidity lends to outstanding freshness with a well integrated ripe and seductive tannin structure. Incorporating a minimal winemaking intervention approach, apart from the inculated ferment and only two to three “punch downs” daily, retains silkiness and elegance.