WELL, here’s to Week Two of our review of big reds from California and as luck and life would have it, by the time you read this, I'll be sampling a few delights in Napa Valley itself. It’s a dirty job, ladies and gents, but someone has to do it. We dabbled with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel last week but now it’s time for the fruitier duo of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Cab Franc is one of my favourite varieties but it wasn't always the case. It’s a softer, somewhat silkier style to its erstwhile namesake but, for years, the only single grape varietals were from the Loire valley and they were thin and brutal to my palate. California was the first wine-growing region outside France to make me sit up and take notice and for good reason. They took an ugly duckling and turned it into a supermodel with gorgeous raspberry aromas and a smooth silky palate full of redcurrants and hints of vanilla and I've been hooked on this new mistress ever since. It’s easy for critics to say, well, of course, the wines will be good in California, look at the weather but to be honest, the sun shines an awful lot in the south of France but I'd rather have athlete's foot that be forced to drink most of what they make down there. Merlot is perhaps the grape that personifies California wines and it’s a very rare occasion when I stumble across a bad one. Most of the Merlots I've tried have been really good with one or two that are simply divine. If you want to treat yourselves to the latter this Christmas seek out the Nth Degree Merlot from Wente. It’s right up there with your first kiss!

Bogle Merlot, California

Rich red autumn fruits with a lovely hint of vanilla chocolate on the finish. I've tasted Bogle wines many times over the years and I've never felt let down.

Villeneuve Wines £16

Bonterra Organic Merlot, California

Warm plums and dark cherries on the nose leading into a palate full of lush loganberries and cocoa with a soft hint of vanilla on the finish.

Waitrose £12.49