Merlot has endured a tarnished reputation for years. Many insiders
blame the movie Sideways for making fun of Merlot drinkers while
extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir; I’m not convinced an indie film, no
matter how good, was solely responsible for Merlot’s downfall. Perhaps
we were all simply yearning for lighter-bodied reds. Nonetheless, most
of the Merlot out there is well worth checking out.
Neyers Merlot Napa Valley 2010
$40, Prestige Beverage Group
Neyers, the national sales manager for esteemed French and Italian wine
importer Kermit Lynch, could have gone in any direction when it came
time to plant his own vineyard. He went with Merlot. He farms these
vines organically, and the result is outstanding. Deeply saturated red
fruits rest on a rich bed of cocoa and plums.
Chateau de Fontenille Grand Bordeaux 2010
$13, The Country Vintner
vineyards are located on the gravelly soils of Entre-Deux-Mers. This
Merlot-dominated blend (there’s a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet
Franc in the mix) is a perky red, with the wine’s trademark
plum-and-soft-cassis tones supported by soft tannins and lively acidity.
It has a lot of verve for this price.
Bordeaux is Merlot’s ancestral home, where the wine has been an institution for hundreds of years rather than a passing fad.
Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch Merlot 2012
$20, Bacchus Importers
African wines tend to straddle the line between new-world opulence and
old-world style, and this one is no exception. It shows off attractive,
ripe flavors of plum, currant, and cherry, but with the sort of
smoke-and-tobacco undertones that one would be hard pressed to unearth
in a California wine.