This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Oct. 20, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20081020.php.
Hahn Estates 2006 Central Coast Meritage Red Table Wine won a consumer taste-off among six "claret" wines - three Merlot-dominant Right Bank Bordeaux and three California Bordeaux blends - ranging in price from $18 (for this one) to $30-plus.
Even as the lowest-price wine of the group, the Hahn won "easily," said John Johnson, proprietor of The Wine Rack on Louisville's historic Frankfort Avenue, a shop that wins my affection for a small but eclectic collection and, mainly, for Johnson'a excellent knowledge of wine and food. It also bears the distinct advantage of being the only wine shop in the world that I can walk to from my home in five minutes.
Before we head for the tasting report, let's take a moment to refresh our memory on two relevant wine terms:
Claret, as noted above, is an older term, originally British, for red wine, specifically Bordeaux. It likely stems from the French "Clairet" ("Cleh-RAY"), used in early times to distinguish the light, clear Bordeaux reds from their more dark and murky competition. Clairet has been resurrected in modern times, at least as a niche market, as a light, fruity and early-drinking Bordeaux available at modest prices. I haven't seen it outside France. But when you read or hear of "claret," you can assume that the topic is a Bordeaux-type red.
Meritage is a modern English word, coined in a contest in the 1980s, intended as an American synonym for "Bordeaux blend" or even "claret." It's supposed to be prounced as an English word, to rhyme with "heritage," but just about everyone these days assumes it's a French word prounces "Mair-uh-tahzh," and even knowledgeable sommeliers often slip up. The concept has survived, and many wineries do register to use the name; but many more decline to participate, sticking with "Red Table Wine" or even "claret" or simply proprietary names.
As for the Hahn Meritage, it's easy to see why it was a crowd-pleaser. It offers up plenty of appetizing fruit, relatively restrained oak influence, and plenty of acidity and tannins for balance without harshness. Like so many modern California wines, its alcohol level is a bit frightening at 14.5%, but in fairness, the alcohol is well handled and doesn't come across as unpalatable heat. My tasting notes are below.
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Hahn Estates 2006 Central Coast Meritage Red Table Wine ($17.99)
Very dark garnet color with a deep reddish-violet edge. Good "claret" scents meld dark berries and tart cherries with a hint of Cabernet blackcurrant; oak adds hints of chocolate and vanilla, but they're subtle, not dominant. Mouth-filling cherry-berry fruit fills the palate, with ample acidity - not always a given in a Central Coast wine - soft tannins and just a hit of warmth from hefty but well-handled 14.5% alcohol. (Oct. 18, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: A bold wine that calls for robust flavors and finds them in lamb burgers made from natural Kentucky Dreamcatcher Farm lamb and lightly flavored with Indian spices and garlic..
VALUE: It demonstrates its quality as winner of a casual wine-shop tasting among wines that cost significantly more. Stands well above its competition for less than $20, but shop around, as it is widely discounted.
WHEN TO DRINK: The varietal content suggests ageworthiness, and the wine certainly has =sufficient structure to carry it for a few years in the cellar. Its accessible fruit suggests that it's really intended for early consumption, though. I'd drink it over the next five years or less, and then only assuming good cellar conditions.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we're skipping some editions at this point, and the Wine Advisor FoodLetter, customarily distributed on Thursdays, has been on break. I hope to resume it before long.
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