Back in 2004, the movie Sideways sent Merlot sales in the U.S. into a tailspin, and even today, winemakers are still struggling with the stigma the film created. However, Merlot remains one of the world’s most widely planted varietals, and some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world, like Bordeaux’s Cheval Blanc and Chateau Petrus, would not exist without much-maligned Merlot blended in.
That’s why I decided to check out the “Revenge of the Merlot” tasting hosted by Learn About Wine at Elevate Lounge in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month. The tasting highlighted California Merlot producers, and included a panel discussion featuring winemakers and marketing representatives from Gundlach Bundschu and Matanzas Creek in Sonoma; Newton Vineyard, Silverado Vineyards, Swanson Vineyards, and Cakebread Cellars in Napa; and an importer of South American wines. Swanson winemaker Chris Phelps explained that after the Sideways controversy, Merlot producers refocused their energies on what makes Merlot great, including choosing the best vineyard sites.
Anyone who was not committed to making the highest quality wines either went out of business or moved on to other varietals, and so now, drinkers are reaping the rewards of an industry-wide quality upgrade. I put that to the test as I tasted through such distinguished names as Clos du Val, Duckhorn, J. Lohr, Krupp Brothers, O’Shaughnessy, Peju, and Rubissow. Though clearly Californian interpretations of this noble grape, the wines did express their individual provenances, and came in a variety of styles, flavor profiles, and price points. The bottom line: Merlot is a grape for the ages, and its popularity is richly deserved. So next time you think about ordering a Pinot or a Cabernet, consider a Merlot instead. It’s back, and it’s here to stay.
Latest posts by Eric Rosen
- Revenge Of The Merlot! Learn About Wine Sets the Record Straight - May 13, 2010
- Australia's Wild West - March 9, 2010