Which are the Best Merlots?


Question from Diana: Can you give me a guide to the different Merlots. Which one taste better and the different prices?

Reply: Hi, Diana. Thanks for writing! I’m a Merlot lover too.

I’m afraid that “tastes better” is a personal matter, just as it is with any other food. How much garlic do you like in your spaghetti sauce? Do you put mustard or ketchup on your hot dogs – or both? We don’t all appreciate the same things. 

I have two pieces of advice for you. 

1. Find a good wine retailer who knows his wine, his inventory and is service oriented. Develop a good relationship with him.  This is one of the best ways to explore and learn about wine. The wine may cost a little more than it does at the grocery or big-box store, but the advice of an experienced professional is absolutely worth the cost. 

There are a gazillion brands of Merlot from all over the world with prices ranging from$1.99 for “two-buck Chuck” Merlot to ~$2500.00/bottle for Chateau Petrus. You need someone right there with you when you make your choice. 
Tell your retailer what your favorite Merlot wines have been so far. And, tell him about the other wines you like best and he’ll begin to get some insight into your tastes. As time goes by, he’ll get to know your preferences better so that when you want to branch out and try a new variety or region he can anticipate which styles or brands you’re most likely to enjoy. Don’t be embarrassed if your choices are in the low end. That’s what the vast majority of us drink on a day to day basis. Whatever you buy, he’d far rather you spend your money in his shop than someone else’s.

2. Think about the wines you like. Which varieties? If you prefer Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc most of the time, it’s safe to assume you like your whites to have some weight and richness, possibly some oak and those that aren’t too acidic. If the reverse is true, perhaps you prefer crisp whites. 

For reds, do you more often buy Pinot Noir or Cabernet when you’re not buying Merlot? If  you’re drawn to Pinot Noir you probably prefer reds that aren’t too heavy. If you lean toward Cab, it appears that you go for the “big reds.”

Where do your favorite wines come from? If you prefer California wines, there are some cool regions but it’s likely that you prefer warm-climate wines. If you like Malbec from Argentina, Australian red blends or Cotes du Rhone and Languedoc wines from France it confirms your warm-climate preference. If you favorite reds come from the northern part of France and Italy or Oregon then it looks like you lean toward cool-climate reds. This isn’t foolproof but it gives you something to tell your retailer. 

Have you tried any Merlots from Walla Walla (Washington)? They’re terrific and most of them are very good values. 

I hope that helps. Thanks, again, for writing. Happy hunting! 

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