Saturday night with nothing to do and no place to go… it’s Zoom Happy Hour! I led a group through a tasting of 4 wines using the group’s criteria of $15 per bottle and different varietals. The California Zin blend was disappointing, the Provence Rose and Oregon Pinot Noir were spot on and California Merlot was the clear favorite.

Conversation about Merlot always includes the 2004 movie Sideways. I was surprised when no one knew this movie, until I realized my audience was all millennials! It’s an entertaining story for wine enthusiasts especially if your pandemic movie list is dwindling.

Merlot has lost significant market share in USA since the movie (see my post)) but Merlot wines from California and Washington state are improving.

That said, the gold standard for Merlot is the “right bank” region of Bordeaux France, appellations named Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. Many American consumers avoid French wines for the following reasons.

  1. FRENCH WINES ARE EXPENSIVE. First growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy are VERY expensive but these wines represent less than 2% of wine produced in France. In fact, France is often #1 in world for vineyard acreage. French wines did become more expensive with tariffs in October but there are many values.
  2. BOTTLE LABELS DIFFICULT TO READ. Bottle labels on Old World wines (France, Italy, etc.) do not show the grape on the front label. For example, Chateau Saint-Pey St-Emilion Grand Cru’ tells us the winery is Chateau Saint-Pey, St-Emilion (appellation name) is Merlot blend, and Grand Cru is village level wine.

BTW, vintages 2016 and 2015 in Bordeaux are highest rated since 2010.

CHATEAU SAINT-PEY St-Emilion Grand Cru 2016

80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Saint-Emilion, France $24

Winery says “Nice ruby color. Expressive nose, combining red fruit aromas (raspberry, blackberry) and burnt notes. After a frank and silky attack, mouth appears balanced. Fine tannins, a smooth oak and a fruity aromatic return give much elegance to this bottle.”

Another favorite “right bank” Merlot blend –>  Saint-Emilion-chateau-daiguilhe/

Cheers, Bob the WineGuy
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