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the wine gent

MERLOT: NO MILES, IT IS NOT JUST A BLENDING GRAPE

Miles, the main character in the hit movie Sideways, alludes that he will never drink Merlot, or hold high levels of esteem for those who drink this particular wine varietal. I beg to differ, and so do many wine people throughout the world. Like Robert Parker, one of the most highly-respected wine critics, and the folks at Wine Spectator, who recently named a Merlot as their Number ONE wine of the year.

Merlot, over time, has been used traditionally as a blending grape. It is used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab), especially in such big Cab regions as Bordeaux and California. Merlot is grown all over the world (France, California, Washington State, South America, Italy, and Long Island). Tasted blindly, some Merlots can be confused with Cab, but the Merlot will generally be softer. The good news is that this makes for an appealing and approachable wine which gives fantastic character and pairs wonderfully with food. Here are four Merlotís which you can find at Grape Culture that should be taken for a test drive!

Jacobís Creek 2003 Merlot (Australia) is an excellent example of the statement "you donít have to pay big bucks for a good bottle of wine." This Merlot has nice aromas of cherry and blackberry. Itís medium bodied and displays very nice balance of fruit on the palate. This is a very approachable wine for novices and pros alike!

Bogle Vineyards 2003 Merlot (California) is another pleasurable release by this veteran California winery. This is a very full bodied Merlot that has hints of cherry and finishes with a nice spicy oak flavor. This Merlot has assertive tannins which will allow it to pair well with pasta and hearty meat dishes. Itís almost Cab-like.

Waters Crest Merlot 2002 (Long Island) is a fantastic offering from Long Islandís new rising star, winemaker Jim Waters. This Merlot has a great balance of fruit and tannins to allow for a great wine to have with a meal or drink on its own.

WŲlffer Estate Selection Merlot 2001 (Long Island) is one of superstar winemaker Roman Rothís best Estate Merlots to date. This Merlot drinks just like a Cab and actually drinks more like one from Bordeaux. It has a great balance of fruit and terroir, a lovely long finish, and enough tannin to let it pair with hearty meat dishes. HELLO STEAK! A wine like this from France or California would fetch twice the amount that you can grab it for at Grape Culture. This is an excellent value, and a hidden treasure for all of you that love wine and Merlot!

I hope you enjoyed our little visit with Merlot and some of my picks for the month. Look for my column every month in the Grape Culture newsletter and web site.

Cheers!

John Farrell
The Wine Gent