Wine Talk

Snooth User: Stallion

Some Merlots can be every bit as good as a Cabernet

Posted by Stallion, Dec 10, 2011.

Any thoughts.  Cabernet is still King to me.  But some American Merlots are great!  Northstar from Washington State makes one of the best! 


Reply by GregT, Dec 10, 2011.


Is Merlot somehow "lesser"?

Reply by dmcker, Dec 10, 2011.
Edited Dec 11, 2011

Am with Greg, Stallion. Merlot can be excellent. The reason why its reputation was trashed in the States over the past decade or two is all the swill that was rushed out by questionable operations on questionable plots of land to meet the demand in fernbars and elsewhere for 'merlot' (similar to that for 'chardonnay') from the late '80s or early '90s. Loads of easy drinking (as in sodapop), sweet, overly fruited, tannin- and acid-less, imbalanced, characterless swill was dumped on the marketplace, but as people learned more about drinking wine, they liked it less, and especially so for winewriters back in the day, thus the souring rep for the grape.

Have you had much wine from France, especially Bordeaux? Merlot's often used in blends with cab there on the left bank, and is very often the main actor on the right bank of the river that runs through that region. Unfortunately prices on Bordeaux wine have been rising, lately, but if you have the opportunity you should start exploring through the wines from there. And if you read descriptions of merlots on the West Coast, look for phrases like 'right bank style' or 'more Bordeaux-like' or something similar. They're indicators that the WA or OR or CA producers are going after a more refined, solid, longer lived, interestingly satisfying style for their wines...

Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Dec 10, 2011.

Maybe Chateau Petrus have exactly opposite idea! :)

The question can be, where cabernet is better than Merlot but somewhere Merlot is surely better than Cabernet.

Reply by GregT, Dec 10, 2011.

One other thing.  We talk about grapes as if they're always going to be monovarietal wines.  Why? If I'm not mistaken, there's more Merlot planted in Bordeaux than any other variety. But most of those wines are blends of several grapes.

One problem is that Merlot is not as easy to grow as Cab, so there's a bias for Cab, which produces nice, complex wines in many many places.  But where grapes are matched to their environment, Merlot as a blend or as a monovarietal wine can be wonderful. It ripens a little earlier than Cab and it likes a little more water, perhaps because it doesn't have as thick a skin - I don't know for certain, but it's not a second-rate grape at all.

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 11, 2011.

I'm a big Merlot fan myself, though recognize it's pure form is best in Pomerol and St. Emilion. Though similar to Bordeaux, but even more so here in the States and particularly in CA from my experience, Merlot helps complete Cabernet Sauvignon and vice versa. Always like to see winemakers judiciously blend the two together, though Merlot tends to need the support of Cabernet more than the other way around in the U.S. seemingly.

Reply by duncan 906, Dec 14, 2011.

Reading Stallion's post it seems to me that he regards merlot and cabernet sauvignon as though they were football teams and one just has to be better than the other.When it comes to wine and grape types things are not so simple

Reply by Stallion, Mar 31, 2012.

duncan 906.  Your assesment of my thread  is completely incorrect. I was merely making a statement that some Merlots can be every bit as good as a Cabernet. The football analogy is rather simple minded and juvenile.

Reply by 1 jayjay, Mar 31, 2012.

Merlot and Cab two great grapes

if everything is right, right area, right weather, right soil, right time they are picked, right wine maker.

if all is right then two great wines

Reply by GregT, Mar 31, 2012.

jayjay you're quite right. 

And sure, some Merlot can be as good as Cab and some Cab can be as good as Syrah and some Syrah can be as good as Tempranillo and some Tempranillo can be as good as Sangiovese and so on and they can all be as good or better in various blends with each other. Not sure any grape needs to be a king as many, if not most, grapes in production today have proven their worth over time and as a general rule, there's more likelihood of getting complexity in a blend than in a monovarietal.

Reply by napagirl68, Mar 31, 2012.

I like the St. Emilion blends, which are mostly merlot, followed by cab franc, with a portion of cab sauv blended in (oversimplification here- that is a common blending).  I agree with GregT..  complextiy is found in blends... France has always known this.

Reply by Stevern86, Apr 2, 2012.

Hey guys, Keep in mind food pairings too. Sometimes Cab can overwhelm certain foods. Merlot may be just right instead.

Reply by Anando Sangbad, Apr 6, 2012.

Agree totally.In many occassions it becomes difficult to identify and recognise them,specially in midst of heavy meaty meal and flavor of roasted meat around.In any case their individuality is well respected and very well positioned.sidd banerji,wine writer,mumbai,india(

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