Before we despair of Merlot as a single-variety wine under local conditions, it’s worthwhile to reference the outstanding example that is Mount Bullet from Shannon Vineyards in Elgin. A sneak preview of the 2010 suggests that grower James Downes and winemakers Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson of Newton Johnson Vineyards have refined their game even further – the wine manages to be plush and smooth textured like good Merlot should be but simultaneously complex with layers and layers of flavour – red and black fruit, milk chocolate and subtle savoury notes including oyster shell and black olive. It’s rich and broad but also has great drive; it’s bursting with fruit but this is pure and perfectly delineated; and it really hangs around without being astringent or mouth drying. From 3ha planted to five clones, the wine spent 20 months in French oak, 40% new. Score: 18/20 – a really exciting wine.