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Domaine de Ravanes Merlot 1986

Domaine de Ravanes Merlot 1986This week's wine follows on from the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon which I drank in September last year with a hunk of roast beef. By coincidence it is beef again, this time a humble cottage pie rather than the more grand slab of silverside that you might be expecting. As I write this the pie has just gone into the oven, and I am taking a few moments to reflect on this bottle of overtly mature Merlot from Marc Benin of Domaine de Ravanes.

This wine, the Domaine de Ravanes Merlot 1986, and the Cabernet that preceded it, are certainly holding up well for their age. It may come as a surprise to some that there are such ageworthy wines to be found in the Languedoc, and I suspect that many of those that are aware are likely to draw a blank after Mas de Daumas Gassac, the widely accepted Grand Cru of the region. But there are other estates of note, of which Ravanes is but one. That isn't to say, however, that these wines are just hitting their peak right now. Whereas many clarets of twenty or so years of age will be singing (and, admittedly, many will not) these wines are admirable more because they have lasted this long rather than for hitting any high notes. They have given me pleasure, and I think deserve due respect, but I don't recommend anyone rush out and buy anything other than a single bottle in order to simply experience them. These are not wines for tucking away in the cellar!

Domaine de Ravanes Merlot 1986A little cork problem preceding my tasting, the soft, not-quite-buttery piece of bark looking like it would disintegrate when threatened with a screwpull. It was cleanly extracted with the help of a butler's friend, the two prongs gripping the cork on either side and pulling it out quite smartly, in one piece. The wine immediately let forth a sweet, ripe aroma of macerated fruit, and when poured into the glass showed a very mature hue, a mahogany red at the core, fading to a caramel tawny at the rim. Nuances of macerated fruit stay with the wine throughout the evening, quickly joined by little notes of beef, liquorice and brazil nut, with an iron-tinged edge. On the palate it does not show quite so well; it is fairly convincing at the start, with an appealing texture and nicely rounded off edges, but through the midpalate it reveals a little heat and a bitter twist to the fruit, culminating at the finish which has a slightly disjointed feel to it. There are some very complex but fleeting flavours passing through here also, notes of citrus fruit, rose petals and sun baked fruit. It still has an generous presence in the mouth through, with a good body and firm acidity giving the wine a nice composition, which perhaps only falls away on the finish. What can I say? I like this wine, which lingers in a sweet, slightly hot fashion on the finish, but I can't deny that, like the Cabernet, it most likely had more to offer a few years ago. 16.5/20 (22/1/07)

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