Sunday, April 29, 2012

Howard G. Goldberg Discusses Changing Attitude Towards Merlot on Long Island in New York Times

Long Island Vines

A Change in Name and Focus


Published: April 27, 2012


The seven-year-old Long Island Merlot Alliance has changed its name to Merliance, after its collectively made wine, and expanded its program, now describing itself as a group of producers of “quality merlot and merlot-based blends.”


Long Island Dining | Seaford: Adventurous Choices for Nibblers and Grazers (April 29, 2012)

Times Topic: Long Island Wines

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The addition of the words “and merlot-based blends” signals a significant shift in emphasis, Gilles Martin, the technical director, said in a telephone interview.

“The organization began by focusing on merlot alone, but merlot’s ability to blend with other varieties allows us to broaden our focus,” he said. “Perhaps the change will attract new members.”

The group was founded in 2005 to promote the then-prevalent idea that merlot would prove the East End’s defining red.

The successes that many wineries have had with cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot have raised questions about whether the alliance’s viewpoint was too narrow. So has the organization’s size. Although Long Island has 58 producers, Merliance consists of six: W├Âlffer Estate Vineyard, Raphael, Sherwood House Vineyards, Clovis Point, McCall Wines and T’jara Vineyards.

The change in direction by Merliance is not surprising given the youth of the Long Island wine industry, which got its start in 1973. In the premium-wine world, finding the optimum directions for a region’s grape farming and cellar work can take decades, even centuries. The plush, deft 2008 Merliance wine, released this month, is the group’s fifth; like the others, it is 100 percent merlot. It carries a faint, fetching aroma of pencil shavings and dark licorice. It costs $35 at member wineries.

The wine originated with samples from barrels and stainless-steel tanks selected by all the producers and tasted blind collectively by their representatives. The final blend was decided after a handful of trials, and each member contributed the equivalent of two full barrels. The 350 cases were made at the Premium Wine Group, a contract winery in Mattituck.

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