Do you remember merlot? Because grapes come and go in fashion

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Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France 2022 (£13.33, or £12 as part of a mixed case of 6 bottles, Trends in wine are as cyclical as any other product, although a single spin of the wine world’s fashion wheel seems to take slightly longer than Mark Cavendish’s split-second full-speed it takes for clothes and the music to go from new to pale sophisticated retro. It took a while, for example, for wine trendsetters to salvage the reputation of the exuberantly fruity, fresh-off-the-press Beaujolais “nouveau” wines of the 1970s and 1980s. But thanks in large part to the natural wine scene – which championed the gluggable drinkability (or glou-glou as the French say) of wines made using the same winemaking technique of carbonic maceration that gave (and does) Beaujolais nouveau the its easy fruity – nouveau has come back into fashion in the last decade. And Domaine Bel Avenir’s contribution from this year’s harvest brings a brilliant burst of berry fruit to remind us skeptics why it was so popular in the first place.

Errazuriz Estate Reserva Merlot, Curicó Valley, Chile 2021 (£9.99, or £8.99 as part of a six-bottle mixed case, The grape varieties are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in fashion. Chardonnay is the obvious example: a huge success when the first buttery and fruity Australian and Californian versions appeared in the 1980s, it came under fierce critical backlash in the 90s and 2000s, despite being responsible for some of the greatest white wines (white bordeaux, champagne) in the world. The red equivalent may very well be merlot, which for a time in the 1990s and early 2000s was the go-to soft, fruity red, but has never really recovered from the ferocity of reputation it received (or he was thought to receive) in the 2004 wine-themed film, Sideways. All of this seems a little silly when you taste a softly plump and juicy specimen like that of Errazuriz, which shares many of the qualities of wines made from the grape that has replaced merlot in many drinkers’ repertoires, malbec, but with a greater depth and a satisfyingly grainy texture than you usually find at this kind of price point.

Faustino I Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2010 (£17, Tesco) One aspect of wine fashion that we all may feel we need to overcome is packaging. Deep down, we know that there is no causal link between bad winemaking and bad labelling. We could also argue, as more than a few importers have told me over the years, that bad labeling in some cases implies good winemaking, as it suggests that the winemaker was too busy in the vineyard or in the cellar to worry about something as trivial as packaging. . However, that first impression is very hard to shake, and the look of the bottle plays a far more significant role in what we end up drinking than we’d like to admit. Certainly, in my case, the frosted glass, the golden mesh and the Rembrandt detail of the Rioja Faustino brand gran reserva have always seemed to me like a substitute, a slightly tired old tapas restaurant, a bit of a duty-free shop around to 1983. But the wine inside, I recently discovered, is really very good: classic rioja, with an intense flavor, coconut infused, tasty. It is fashionable? Who cares? It’s absolutely delicious.

Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach

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