Tasting Notes: Queen of Hearts Merlot

This wine has been on the rack for a while... it was originally purchased way back in February. As you may guess from the kitschy name, I came across a tasting of this brand around Valentine's Day while doing some grocery shopping. For a reason unknown to me, I tend to shy away from buying Merlot, so I was happy to give it a go!

The Facts

  • Producer: Was Queen of Hearts Wines but is now owned by Lucas & Lewellen
  • Region: Santa Barbara County, CA
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Variety: Merlot
  • Where I purchased: Grocery store - Fresh Market
  • Price: $12.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a medium red color. After a brief foray into white and rosé wines, I am back to the color I love most! It was relatively transparent and was not super viscous. As a note, viscosity can be an indicator for acid levels in the wine, so I'd have qualified this as a "medium acid" wine based on how it looked. 
  • Nose: This wine was very pleasant to smell. I tend to be biased toward the aromas of fruit forward reds, but hey, I like what I like! The wine smelled of dark berries and plum. There was a hint of something sweet smelling, whether that be vanilla or something jammy. Regardless, it smelled good.
  • Taste: This wine definitely had a strong fruit flavor, but a mix of red and black. I picked up on some blackberry and some cherry which was not unexpected based on the aromas. There was definitely more of a jammy taste to the wine once I had some, but there was still a good bite from the tannin. Sometimes I think jammy can be a turnoff, but it worked in this case. 
  • Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine! I remember having the same feelings while in Fresh Market. I (probably unfairly) had low expectations of the wine based on the name and price point, but it actually came out as an "every day" category winner for me. I thought there was a good balance between fruit and tannin and was just really pleasant to drink. Fair warning: I tried this label's Pinot Noir, and I was NOT a fan of that. I'd buy the Merlot again, but in my opinion, shy away from the Pinot.


Tasting Notes: Wild Oats Shiraz

The recovery process from a cold and bronchitis has been long, but I am back at it! I've had a good return to wine with this Australian Shiraz.

The Facts

  • Producer: Wild Oats by Oatley Family Wines
  • Region: Central Ranges of New South Wales (NSW), Australia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Shiraz
  • Where I purchased: Harris Teeter. I hear it can be found at World Market, too.
  • Price: $13.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a very pretty color! It was a very deep red with some hint of purple. The wine was opaque, so paired with the fact that this is a Shiraz, I expect this wine to be full bodied and fruit forward.
  • Nose: This wine's aroma was very fruity, but not sweet smelling. I picked up on some blackberry and cassis (liqueur made from black currant berries). It also reminded me of chambord, the liqueur made from red and black raspberries. I also picked up on some spice notes, which is typical for the Syrah grape. The spices reminded me of what is referenced in the wine world as "baking spices", so think cinnamon, allspice, etc.  The aroma was very pleasant and definitely made me want to try it, which is always good!
  • Mouth: The wine had great flavor of ripe berries (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry) with notes of pepper. It had a great texture where it was smooth and easy to drink but had a little "bite" to it. I enjoy tannins, so this was a great addition. I didn't detect anything herbacious or earthy, which speaks to it being an Australian Shiraz as opposed to a Syrah from the Old World.
  • Thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine. It was a great bottle to open after being sick and will definitely be purchased again in our household! We had steak with some roasted vegetables and potatoes, and I thought it went wonderfully with that meal. It's fun to have something that can give depth and flavor without a huge price tag, so this was definitely a win! It's a screw top, which I am coming to love more and more for the convenience factor. I actually opened it, poured a glass, and let it sit for a few minutes by chance, and I think it really developed good flavor after opening up for a bit. However, if you don't like spicy wines, I would skip over this one.

    Wondering what the difference is between Syrah and Shiraz? There is none! It's the same grape variety that came from Europe and Australians simply call it Shiraz. If you'd like to learn more about New World Shiraz vs. Old World Syrah, check out this article by Wine Folly! 


Tannins: What are they?

If you've been enjoying wine for a bit, one word you've most certainly heard, especially when people are discussing red wine, is tannin.

So what is tannin exactly?

Tannin is actually a natural substance found on plants, or specifically related to wine, the grapes' skins, stems, and seeds. Since red wine is fermented with all of the stems, pips (seeds) and skins, red wine becomes tannic. Red wine can also get its tannins from being aged in barrels, particularly oak barrels.   

How would you describe tannin in a wine?

It will be very beneficial for you to know whether or not you enjoy tannic wines or not. If you're at a store or ordering wine from a restaurant menu, it'll help whoever is giving the recommendation know which route to go as some grapes are known to be more tannic than others. So how would you describe tannins in wine? Tannin is what provides that sense of bitterness or astringency in red wines. Have you ever had a sip of red wine and your mouth feels dry after? That drying feeling is actually tannin!

If you'd like to find out if you enjoy tannic reds, I'd give a bigger and bolder red a try such as cabernet sauvignon or bordeaux. If you do enjoy tannic reds, I'd be sure to pair them with a hearty meal such as steak or beef stew!