The 2010 St. Donatus Estate Balatonboglari Semi-Sweet Merlot is a Trader Joe’s ($5.49) exclusive. Balatonboglari is a resort town on a lake in western Hungary, which is right in the middle of one of Hungary’s leading wine districts. The Hungarians have been making wine for at least 1,500 years and they tend to like their red wine a little on the sweet side. This Merlot was aged for a time in oak barrels and has a relatively low alcohol content of 11.5%.
The color is a cherry red with orange highlights. The nose is a little musty, plum and cherry, along with damp cardboard box. This is not your typical Merlot, the label says Semi-Sweet, but in a juicy fresh fruit way, not in a sugary way. Not a complex wine and light to medium bodied. It starts off with jammy raspberry, with a little dark chocolate and then it transitions to a slightly astringent, medical taste, I know that sounds bad, but I think I kind of like it. There are no tannins to speak of and the acidity is low. The finish is the same as the body of the wine and does linger for a while.
The St Donatus Merlot is definitely not a wine made for the American palate, this is a wine that folks sitting around the table in Budapest drink on tuesday night. This is one of the wines that make me really appreciate Trader Joe’s, at most regular wine shops, the wines from eastern Europe are gathering dust on some shelf in the back of the store. Trader Joe’s sells the bottle for under 6 bucks and sells out their allotment every year. Hungarian Merlot may not be my new go-to wine, but I sure am glad I gave it a try.