Merlot Makes a Comeback

17 easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing wines

 


Merlot has had a rough time over the past few years. Once everyone’s favorite easy-drinking red, Merlot was stigmatized by Miles’ famous line in Sideways: “We are not drinking any %^@#ing Merlot!” So, what were we drinking before we had this group infatuation with Pinot Noir then? Well, it was Merlot!

So, where is Merlot today? It’s a good question and one the savvy consumer should be asking. All the attention that had once been focused on Merlot, but quickly switched allegiances, left Merlot producers oversupplied for the marketplace. You know what that generally means: falling prices as production exceeds demand and increased quality as lands that may have been over-cropped or irrationally planted to Merlot get budded over to more valuable varieties or farmed for quality over quantity.
Slideshow
Best Merlot February 2011

Click to see a slideshow of the Best Merlot, February 2011

Today, Merlot is seeing something of a restoration of its reputation. With less bad Merlot on the market, consumers can finally begin to understand not only the grape but the styles that California is capable of -- not to mention Washington, Chile, South Africa… you name it. This sampling of Merlot was quite narrow, with just a few from outside California but offers up a little something for just about everybody. Merlot remains an easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing wine, though there are wines that test the limits from rich and powerfully extracted to elegant and exceptionally refined. The only trick here is finding the one you like!

See pages 2-3 for tasting notes on 17 Merlots


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Comments

  • How did Twomey Cellars NOT make your list with their 2006 Merlot? This wine is one of the finest Merlot I have ever tasted.
    Cheers, Dr. Michael Weinberg

    Feb 09, 2011 at 3:54 PM


  • Snooth User: foolybear
    348978 92

    Twomey doesn't age well in my experience although pretty tasty in the first two years from release (albeit pricey). See some of the comments on Cellar Tracker.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 4:02 PM


  • My bad. It was the 2005 that I was referring to.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 4:18 PM


  • Snooth User: Magnus N
    460975 3

    If you can get a hold of it in the US, I strongly recommend Mas Comtal's Petrea. It is a Spanish wine fr.o.m. Penedès and certainly rates 90+.

    Magnus, Sweden

    Feb 09, 2011 at 4:58 PM


  • Snooth User: foolybear
    348978 92

    Any of the Chappellet merlots from the past five vintages offer better value than the twomey and I haven't even started mentioning the stuff from Washington state...then there's always Pahlmeyer or the on again, off again Duckhorn.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 4:59 PM


  • My favorite Merlots are actually Bordeaux. Many fine Bordeaux wines are 100% Merlot or close to it. You list seems a little CA centric.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 5:23 PM


  • Snooth User: lingprof
    Hand of Snooth
    155607 1,108

    Thank you!!! I'm always looking for Merlot recs and they're harder to come by than Cabs, etc. (e.g. from the experts at my local shop). Thanks for putting stuff all up and down the price range too!

    One of my faves that didn't make the list, on the low end, is Ferrari-Carano.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 5:56 PM


  • Snooth User: itsoffal
    764024 2

    Birdman308
    you hit the nail right on the head.
    That's the problem with naming wine after a grape variety, cause you're not talking about wine, the region that is the ancestral land of the grape was conviniently omitted.
    I dream of Pomerol and St-Emilion, not of the zinfandelised versions of merlot from california.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 6:24 PM


  • I agree with Birdman 308, The French Bordeux from the right bank is a great place to find outstanding Merlot. Granted that most of it is blended with support from other grape varieties. It is still the best use of Merlot in my opinion,

    Feb 09, 2011 at 6:40 PM


  • 2007 Mollydooker Merlot The Scooter is a very nice Merlot from Australia -- priced $25 +/- a few $.....rated 91 by WA

    Feb 09, 2011 at 9:14 PM


  • Snooth User: phagar
    341038 147

    Had a very fine 2005 reserve merlot from Kunde recently. And although I haven't had any recently, I've also found both Hanna and Matanzas Creek to have excellent merlots as well.

    Feb 09, 2011 at 10:04 PM


  • How you yankees can avoid Bordeaux in your tasting - well, one's breath is taken away by the effrontery! We'll be having to send you more tea at this rate! We certainly cant find your wines on London shelves!
    Chateau Brisson 2005 Cotes de Castillon - plums, blackcurrants and a haedy aroma. Great with food. Lovely. If you chaps get French wine!
    Well done the man who recommended Penedes Merlot, Mas Comtal, and though I dont know this, the reds from that region are very good and very varied

    Feb 10, 2011 at 6:03 AM


  • MERLOT!
    Why don't you taste the merlots of the south of switzerland, the merlots of ticino. You find a great number of excellent wines of a number of smal
    producers. Merlots with a great reputation, beautiful!

    Feb 10, 2011 at 7:43 AM


  • I loved the Swiss wines I tasted in Switzerland, but thats the issue - to get them means holidays in Switzerland, and the sf is expensive. The Swiss Centre in Leicester Sq closed down, and the Movenpick restaurant in Victoria closed down, so now I taste no swiss wine. Are the Ticino wines on sale in UK or USA?

    Feb 10, 2011 at 8:50 AM


  • I am equally astonished that you can write an article on Merlot and not include anything from Bordeaux's right bank, as mentioned above practically anything from the 05 vintage from Fronsac going east through St Emilion, Cotes de Castillon to Ste Foy are amazing and much better expressions of the true merlot character than most of the article's 'featured wines'

    Feb 10, 2011 at 12:35 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 220,917

    So it's safe to say that you all feel I should be including California Meritage wines next time I write about Bordeaux then?

    Feb 10, 2011 at 12:41 PM


  • Snooth User: vinelove
    241258 1

    People laughed and raised eyebrows when I told them that the only red that I am drinking for the next six months is Merlot. Thanks for sharing your favorites and if you know of any Bordeaux heavy Merlots that are accessible in NYC, holler back! p.s. merlot tasting anyone?....

    Feb 10, 2011 at 1:48 PM


  • Snooth User: Kemu99
    765137 1

    OK start laughing but I'm serious. The brand Nostalgia merlot from Chile at about $4 a bottle taste better to me than many much more expensive Merlots that I've tried. But it's difficult to find and if word gets out it will probably disappear completely!

    Feb 10, 2011 at 6:01 PM


  • Nice Greg! I loved the meritage remark. No matter what you include, we want something different. :)

    Feb 10, 2011 at 8:25 PM


  • It would be interesting to have the californian one, Meritage, or for that matter SA and aussie versions of the famous bordeaux grape combinations or straight varietals, as the comparative tastes might reveal differences. I find the new world (mainly aussie) simpler and fruitier and the old bordeaux more tannic and dry and in need of food - so tis not a bad idea Greg.
    But LuvOregonPinot right too. And us francophiles! Oh for a decent selection of Californian Merlot here in London!

    Feb 11, 2011 at 12:07 PM


  • Snooth User: schellbe
    Hand of Snooth
    247770 225

    Not really Greg (in reference to your Meritage comment). If the topic is Merlot, it would be reasonable to include a discussion or a sampling of Merlot based wines throughout the world, the Right Bank being a prime example. Or at least a followup article with a discussion of some Old World Merlot-based wines. If the topic were Bordeaux, that would mean just Bordeaux, not other regions.

    I did not make the original comment, but I think they have a valid point, even though I like both the New and Old World styles.

    Perhaps such a followup article would be appropriate.

    Feb 11, 2011 at 3:48 PM


  • Snooth User: john704
    176725 2

    Despite the media, Merlots have really never gone out of favor, just took a backseat. For a real treat seek out the '06 Turnbull Oakville Estate (vintage closeout) at around $20. Normally about plus $30. And try to remember, 5 and 6 year old merlots are already aged enough!

    Feb 12, 2011 at 11:55 AM


  • In tasting all over the U.S. and Canada, I find Long Island Merlots the most consistent and complex. Check out http://wine.appellationamerica.com/...

    Virginia is also turning out some nice Pomerol / Lalande de Pomerol-type wines with very good structure and longevity.

    Apr 07, 2011 at 5:11 PM


  • Snooth User: vinodon
    752496 1

    Has any one had the Marina Cvetic merlot from the late winemaker Gianni Masciarelli? Now that is a great Merlot from Italy

    Apr 09, 2011 at 6:16 PM


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