If you want to know how good a value any specific category of wine offers it’s always good to start at the bottom, or close to it. Take Merlot for example. It’s been in the dumps ever since Sideways came out, and yet if you ask me and other folks who follow these things you j
know that we've been trying to get you to check out Merlot for a few years now.

When a grape goes through a slump many growers will switch to something more profitable, particularly if their fruit wasn't that good to begin with. Growers who produce great fruit often just can’t bring themselve to graft it over to something that make them more money but for an inferior product. So they keep growing the grapes, in this case Merlot, deal with what the market offers then, and hope for better times to come. Well folks, better times are here.

You can tell that by sampling some of these less expensive Merlots. They offer great value and best of all they often taste and feel like Merlot. Not fancy Merlot of course, but for most part they show a lovely blend of herbs and fruit on the nose, and while some wines seem to have no tannins, they are mostly soft without being flacid; some are quite bright and very attractively fresh. In fact I would say that’s main selling point for Merlot. Assuming you like the flavor profile, the texture of these inexpensive Merlots gives them a leg up on many other varieties at this price point. 

They’ve also turned the wine market a little upside down. While not complex or explosively rich many of these wines show more varietal typicity than wines that are multiples the price. It’s a win-win situation but of course as happens with these things, over the coming years more people will remember to try Merlot once in awhile and will in turn be convinced by their quality. Slowly the price for great fruit will once again rise, vineyards will be re-grafter to Merlot, and we will have moved on to the next great value. For today at least you owe it to yourself to check out the great value Merlot now offers. Light, fresh, fruity and savory they are so very attractive!

Big, spicy wood derived aromas greet the nose followed by rich blueberry and black cherry notes layered over mineral and tomato leaf accents. This also gains a bit of a licorice tone drapes over everything. Smooth and rich on entry, the midpalate gains attractive clarity as the acidity pops a touch freshening the black fruit which retain a lovely floral and herbal inner mouth perfume right through the moderately long, juicy finish. There’s plenty of fruit here yet this remains rather fresh and lively in the mouth with subtle oak spice and chocolate overtones on the blackberry finish which turns just a bit peppery on the finale. 88pts
Pungent with aromas of old wood, fresh berry fruit, cotton gauze, sage and soft spiciness all coming together on the attractive nose. A bit soft in the mouth, this has lovely zingy red cherry, currant and red plummy fruit on the palate. There are subtle spice notes and a hint of dry leather, but this is mostly about the fruit. the acidity makes itself known on the backend, as do the tannins which are a touch rustic and chewy and add some character to the palate. Medium bodied and just a little rustic, this is fun to drink and has a pretty long finish filled with subtly savory tart red berry and plum fruit. 86pts
Dark and full of cocoa, earth and softly plummy fruit on the nose with faint herbal hints. Light, fresh and almost zesty in the mouth with light weight and succulent acidity. the fruit is fresh if a touch earthy in the mouth, slowly yielding notes of creamy chocolate, black currant and black plummy fruit all framed with gentle suggestions of dried herbs. Theres enough tannin here to add some mouthgrab but everything is really very well balanced allowing the fruit to keep the structure covered but not obscured. This turns a bit dry and gently mineral on the modest finish but that doesn’t detract from the package. A great little food wine. 86pts
A bit tight on the nose with an early hint of minerality followed by some tobacco and dried chile notes along with mint topped cherry and plum fruit. Soft and broad in the mouth with nice transparency to the black fruit on the palate. There’s a faint suggestion of black raspberry sweetness to the fruit which is washed away on the mid palate by slightly creamy chocolate and carob notes and a soft wash of herbaceousness. No really tannins to speak of, this is smooth and easy drinking yet delivers a little complexity along with nicely bright fruit and shows a little licorice and a hint of minerality on the moderately long finish. 85pts 
Sweet cherry fruit marries with charry oak notes, some dried tomato and attractive dried herb aromas on the nose. Soft and low on entry, this shows a bit of sweetness along with the red berry fruit while maintaining a bit of herbaceousness in the mouth. The fruit on the palate shows that same tomato like fruitiness that one gets on the nose, and it leads to a modest little finish which again shows a touch of sweetness but buffered by some dry tannins. rather simple but well balanced and fresh enough to warrant another sip. 84pts
Rather big and herbal on the nose but lovely ripe herbs all laid upon a base of sweet black currant and blackberry fruit supported by some cedary oak. Round, soft and a bit matte in the mouth this delivers slightly meaty and cocoa dusted black fruits with a subtle leathery edge. The acidity is a bit low for me, and the tannins rather soft but this rich, smooth style should prove to be very appealing. The backend shows black currant fruit which turns into sweet black cherry flavors on the slightly sticky and modest finish. A mini fruit bomb. 84pts
Lots of old wood greets the nose followed by dusty, earthy dried herb and lingonberry aromas with a leathery top note. Smells a little Shiraz like! Rich and opulent in the mouth with some minor yet assertive tannins and solid acidity supporting a rather rich at this price point, core of plum, chocolate, and faintly green nutty fruit with a light thin mint note on the back end. The flavors here are quite new world, aas is the texture, the aromas the only clue that this is old world, though the South of France has plenty of heat and sun to make this style of wine. I like the acidity here, which freshens the fruit on the moderately long and slightly drying with brushy tannins finish but this strikes me as a compromise wine that will struggle to find an audience. 83pts
Smokey and pleasantly weedy on the nose under rather rich cocoa dusted raspberry fruit. Medium light bodied in the mouth and simple with easy going plummy fruit and some subtle cocoa and herb notes adding a little complexity along with a late arriving vanilla tone. There’s plenty of acid here and a little tannin to add some weight in the mouth but this is a very easy drinking, soft and fruity style of Merlot. 83pts