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Magic Merlet turns fruit fantastic

The Grapevine

By Lisa Airey, thewinekey@aol.com

10:51 AM EST, March 7, 2012

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In the spirit world, there are many types of beverage alcohol. Fermented grape juice or fermented fruit juice yields wine. Adding alcohol to fermenting grape juice creates port, Madeira, sherry, Marsala and vins doux naturels. Distilling wine results in cognac, Armagnac and brandy. Infusing fruit with alcohol and adding water and sugar makes liqueurs.

Liqueurs are reputed to be descended from medicines concocted by the clergy during the Middle Ages. Back then, many infusions were herbal and used as health tonics. Today, in addition to medicinal-tasting "bitters," there are many fruit liqueurs that are as delicious on their own as they are incorporated into a cocktail or drizzled over ice cream, fruit or fruit desserts.

The word "liqueur" is taken from the Latin "liquifacere" meaning "to liquefy." Fruit is crushed, infused with alcohol and water to pull out the aromatics and flavor compounds, then sweetened with sugar. Just four ingredients.

To craft a quality product, there can be no skimping or cheating on the raw material. And the fruit must be perfectly ripe and without a hint of rot.

Imagine liquid fruit so pure, so explosive, so incredibly intense in aroma and flavor that it recalibrates the very benchmark for perfection for pear, peach, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and black currant.

Not all liqueurs give you this experience; but Merlet liqueurs do. Merlet fruit liqueurs taste as if they've been crafted by Merlin himself. There is nothing but magic in each and every bottle.

The Creme de Poire William (pear) is exquisitely balanced. Not too sweet. Not too alcoholic. Just pure essence of perfectly ripe pear sourced from the Loire Valley in France. It would be fabulous drizzled over a ripe Camembert with a small pony of the same in a glass to accompany it. (Don't forget the toast tips.)

The Creme de Peche de la Vigne (peach) is so tangy that it hints of nectarine…just an exquisite palate tease of sweet and tart. Its peaches hail from the Roussillon region of France where warm days and cool nights deliver zingy, concentrated fruit laced with incredible aromatics. And the aroma is explosive. Think brunch; think bellinis.

The Creme de Fraise des Bois (wild strawberry) sources wild and mara strawberries from Spain and the Dordogne region of France. This one was a show-stopper, largely because it is so easy to make a flawed strawberry product. Sometimes the fruit tastes medicinal, or confected and chemical, or rotten. Not in this case. The Merlet strawberry liqueur explodes with a concentrated, exotic wild strawberry flavor. The fruit is almost sun-dried in nature; it absolutely detonates upon the tongue with an intensity that leaves you speechless. If you've never tasted a "wild" strawberry, this is a must-buy. The product is life-changing.

The Creme de Framboise (raspberry) sources its fruit from the Vosges Mountains of Alsace, France. It is a rustic, spicy raspberry with an enticing hint of bitter nut skin that balances the intensity of the fruit to perfection. Drizzle on a peach melba crepe.

The Creme de Mure Sauvage (wild blackberry) is mind-boggling. Just layers of flavor that is both bright and sweet. The acid-sugar balance is an amazing Cirque du Soleil on the tongue. The fruit for this product also comes from the Vosges Mountains in France (obviously, one heck of an amazing Garden of Eden). It needs nothing more than a glass to hold it.

The Creme de Cassis (black currant) is viscous and concentrated with a vibrancy that will fuel all of Manhattan. The black currants are grown right on the Merlet estate; all 250 acres of them.

And so, why is this liqueur so packed full of dynamite?

Well, black currants are a cool-climate fruit preferring the likes of the UK, Poland, Russia and Scandinavia. Planting them in the temperate climate of the Charentes, France's Cognac district, was a bit of a gamble. But it paid off. Without a significant winter freeze, the bushes are less fruitful. Low yields equate to a harvest of berries that are very, very concentrated in flavor.

Bottom line? It really doesn't get any better than this. Positively amazing Creme de Cassis…it will make a very royal Kir Royale.

All Merlet liqueurs are distributed through Prestige at $25 a bottle.