Wine Talk

Snooth User: wlstiles3

Merlot stigma?

Posted by wlstiles3, Oct 1, 2009.

I have been drinking wine for about 10 years. I was fortunate early on to be introduced to some very good wines. My wife's family really enjoys wine. Silver Oak, Cakebread, Fransiscan, St. Supery, BV and other mostly Napa Cabs are the standard at her family gatherings. Merlot was considered 2nd banana.

Lately, the bride and I have been expanding horizons and trying different wines. I have discovered some quality in Merlot. In fact, for everyday drinking and QPR I am finding Merlot hard to beat.

Why does Merlot have this 2nd banana stigma?


Reply by TL NJ, Oct 2, 2009.

From what I understand - the stigma comes from California's "abuse" of the merlot grape a few years back. Due to some early success, they started mass producing, and slapping "Merlot" on anything red they were scooping up from the bottom of barrels - the idea being that the American consumer would buy up an $8 bottle of something that sounded so French - this was at a time before the American wine palate really matured. It was the equivalent to the "white zinfandel" stigma that is occurring today (although that one is still probably well deserved!).

I think most would agree that many of the serious wineries have backtracked, and taken another look at the merlot grape and its potential. There are some excellent merlots coming out of Northern California nowadays - anything from high-end excellence like Duckhorn, to the "everyday" guys that properly respect the grape - like Berringer and Mondavi. I think (and hope) the stigma will end soon -it really can be a nice glass of wine.

I have had some great experiences with the merlots being made in Washington, and I actually prefer them to California merlots - If your interested in merlot, I would recommend you give some a try. For a good everyday (ie., "cheaper") give Chateau Ste. Michelle a try - I've been happy with just about every varietal they produce, and their merlots are particularly nice. Middle-end (which I think is as good as any of the "best" coming out of Cali) try Januik, and if you want some really amazing stuff, and willing to spend about $30 - $40 a bottle, look for Quilceda Creek or (my favorite) Leonetti.

Its nice to hear there are others out there that arent afraid to admit that they like merlot!


Reply by dynowine, Mar 1, 2010.

Try Merlot from unusual places such as the Languedoc (not Bordeaux, but extreme Southern France) or Australia or even Chile or Argentina or S. Africa. Merlot seems to do a grand job of expressing terroir while still preserving its usual good dose of fruit and a classic full smoothness as it moves across the palate. If memory serves some of the best and most expensive wines in the world are 90% or more Merlot, from Bordeaux (e.g. Chateau Petrus) or Graves. Curiously, merlot's complexity is enhanced by iron in the soil, so South African merlot should be good, too, given that nation's red soils. Ain't drinkin no stinkin Merlot? Fine, I'll take yours for a song. Salute.

Reply by amour, Mar 1, 2010.

Welcome to Merlot wisdom !!

While studying law in London, my inn served Merlot and at first I was not impressed...then
I decided to go with the flow and actually enjoyed the thing.

Reply by dmcker, Mar 1, 2010.

Here're some past threads on the subject that should provide useful reading:

I think it's foolish to tar all merlot with a brush painting the still-common, over-manipulated-and-produced, mass-market swill rushed to fill orders from bars and restaurant chains aimed at newbie wine drinkers who don't know better and let profit-oriented wineries and wine manufacturing corporations choose for them. There's plenty of good merlot being made out there, certainly in Bordeaux and other parts of France, but also several parts of California and the Columbia River Valley. Just have to know who to separate the wheat from the chaff in finding it.

What flavors and styles, in particular, are you looking for? And what's your budget?

Reply by amour, Mar 1, 2010.

South Africa, a place that has always fascinated me,
is increasingly doing Merlot as a varietal in addition to
blending it with Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Boutique Winery called Hillcrest Estate (DURBANVILLE)
started out in a modest garage and is now moving forward with
their well - integrated HILLCREST MERLOT.
I had the 2006 and it was delightful with its chocolate and coffee flavours.
As I understand it, the growing of Merlot in their vineyards
on the lower locations
benefit from well-drained oak-leaf soils.
Production is small.
By the way, The Durbanville Wine Valley Festival of the Grape
is this month ..March 21st...end of season and start of their autumn.

Reply by Candace Hobbs, Mar 1, 2010.

I'm drinking an Australian Merlot as I speak...Steeple Jack, Great price,,,good for everyday,,,pepper, oak, and blackberries. I also am a fan of Washington State Merlot...try Hyatt, Averill Lake, and Milbrandt...See to order these great finds. You'll have to call, but it's worth the conversation.

Reply by amour, Mar 4, 2010.

Yet  another  good  MERLOT  find !


2007 Chateau St. Georges, Cote Pavie  St.Emilion

Grand Cru

medium bodied, dry

quality wine for a song

13.5 alcohol

enough complexity to write home about!

Reply by amour, Mar 4, 2010.

Continuing on French Merlot......

there  have  been  several  changes over the years,

and  the 2006 reclassification  has  resulted  in  a  few

interesting  legal  fires!

Some  estates  have challenged  the  reclassification 

with law suits.

The  result  has  been  a  series  of judgments,  appeals,  and  counter  judgments.

Only  2  estates  hold  Grand Cru Classe A moniker.

They  are  Chateau Ausone

and Chateau Cheval Blanc.


13  hold  Grand Cru Classe B,

including PAVIE  and also  Pavie Macquin.

50  are  Grand Cru Classe

and hundreds  are  Grand Cru.

There  are  several very ordinary ones which are good  and   therefore bargains.

One such  is  2005 Chateau Lamartre St.Emilion (MERLOT and CABERNET FRANC blend....spicy, cedar, oak, cinnamon

BIG  and  RICH.

Reply by Charles Emilio, Mar 4, 2010.

I would like to see California, in particular napa introduce more merlot into their Cabernets, around 20% or less would do wonders.


Reply by chadrich, Mar 11, 2010.

I think the article at the link below does a great (and fairly humorous) job of explaining why Merlot has the bad rap that it has. 

Full disclosure:  I work for the company that owns this paper and know Gil, the author.  Nonetheless, I think you'll find it interesting.

Reply by dmcker, Mar 11, 2010.

Cute article by Gil, chadrich. And I wonder how many people really did get the Sideways scriptwriter's in-joke about how in one more area the Giamatti character's snobbishness and mentally untied shoelaces were tripping him up. In any given year, his beloved Cheval Blanc can contain nearly as much merlot as cabernet franc.

Reply by duncan 906, Mar 15, 2010.

Red Bordeaux is  a blend of more than one grape type usually merlot and cabernet sauvignon or cabernet franc.St Emillion is a right or east bank red Bordeaux and like the others it is just such a blend although it is 75/80% merlot.Straight merlot is made in a lot of wine regions;North and South America,Australasia,South Africa,Languedoc,Italy and even Hungary.I have enjoyed merlots from all of these areas.(except Hungary)It tends to be a dry red which is a good accompaniment to many foods.The inclusion of cabernet in red Bordeaux gives it a little more of a fruity taste,

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 15, 2010.

Actually, some Rive Droite wines are 100% Merlot and many in the 90% range so reflective of Merlot in its original element, sozusagen. But the historical reason for the admixture one finds in the various sub-regions of the Bordeaux has more to do with climate and economics than some magic silver bullet blend.  Merlot is an insurance policy.  It is far more likely to ripen than (say) Cabernet Sauvignon in off-years where the shoulder seasons are unkind and jack frost pays one too many visits.

But having said this, the happenstance of mixing Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (inter alia) produced good, lip-smacking results.  These results cry out for similar Meritage blends in California and elsewhere - regardless of how well the good Cabernet ripens in the ample sun of the Bear Flag State...

Reply by GregT, Mar 16, 2010.

And the ripening dates of cab vs merlot are different, and the water /soil requirements.  Merlot is a lot more finicky than cab.  It's not a second banana unless someone doesn't really know what he or she is talking about.

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 16, 2010.

Merlot is definitely a quality grape - with opulent, plummy flavors when grown in good locations under good conditions and with sound management.  She is no second banana - though people are forgiven their preferences.

Reply by amour, Mar 22, 2010.

Just had a glass of St.Francis Merlot for the fun of it and it tasted deliscious.

Reply by amour, Mar 22, 2010. excuse  my  degenerating spelling......

it is time for bed.....GOODNIGHT!

Reply by amour, Mar 23, 2010.

Some agree that the best  MERLOT sites are St.Emilion /Bordeaux / France  and  Pomerol / Bordeaux / France,   and  of  course, CALIFORNIA / United States of America.

Price/value connection is better, usually, in St.Emilion, which is far larger  a region, than Pomerol.

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
19 posts
1464471 Snooth User: William Djubin
1464471William Djubin
12 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
7 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network