I delight in drinking what's not popular. I got the biggest kick out of running into a co-worker at a wine tasting who was scouting pinot noirs (at the height of the Sideways craze). She recoiled when I mentioned a great merlot I had just tasted.
I've done this rant before, but it's worth repeating.
The anti-merlot backlash has faded, but I think it still doesn't get its due. Sure, there are a lot of less than inspiring merlots out there, but the same can be said for any popular varietal. Syrah is probably on its way to over-saturation...if it isn't already there.
So, I look for merlot when I'm shopping, hoping to discover what others have overlooked. I've had an older vintage of Hope Estate Merlot that impressed me, so when I saw a bottle of the 2005 vintage, I grabbed it
What a great choice. This is serious merlot. It has wonderful depth with flavors of plum, cherry, chocolate and a nice bit of herb. Even though it's a warm-climate merlot, it's got amazing structure and a firm backbone of acidity. Well done.
I have to admit I've been off Aussie wines lately. There are so many over-done, fruit bombs crowding the market lately. This is not one.
Hope Estate produces some excellent wines in a more balanced style. Their verdelho is not to be missed.