For some people — OK, for Miles from “Sideways” — there’s no such things as a “Top 10” for Merlot, American or otherwise. But then Miles talks about Pinot Noir likes it’s the shy, sexy foreign exchange student in high school, so maybe let’s leave his opinion aside and consult the folks who actually buy Merlot. We’ve pulling the data for the 10 Merlots that are most searched for on Wine-Searcher to see what the public wants.
We poke fun and we generalize (Merlot is just for blending, it’s all soft fruit, no complexity, blah, blah, blah), but good winemakers can, and do, coax plenty of character out of Merlot. Not to mention Merlot is essential to what’s arguably the most famous wine region in the world —Bordeaux (Petrus, a Right Bank, Merlot-dominant Bordeaux is one of the most famous wines in the entire drinking universe). So we’re happy to give Merlot some respect. Not that we also won’t make fun of some of the intense wine language folks use to describe it. You know, just ‘cause.
Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot – Napa Valley
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If you’re the best seller at an average of $51, there’s gotta be some complexity there. (There is). But this one also scores points from JancisRobinson.com for its “marzipan complexity,” which sounds like either a terrible musical or an awesome EDM outfit.
Marylin Monroe Wine “Marylin Merlot” – Napa Valley
Yeah, this is No. 2. And not the only Marilyn wine pun offering from Marilyn Monroe Winery (Blonde de Noirs, Sauvignon Blonde). The bottles are actually big with collectors. We recommend drinking this over a subway grate.
Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Merlot – Acampo
Only $8 to Duckhorn’s $51, this seems like more of a value buy than something you’ll be mulling over by the fireside. Or, as one reviewer put it, “at the Costco price, this is exactly what you bought it for.”
Stags’ Leap – Napa Valley
These aren’t the guys who won the Judgment of Paris with Cabernet Sauvignon — that’s a different Stag’s Leap — but they know their way around Merlot. And it is nicely complex, rounded with dark fruit but an edge of spice and some tannin. Be careful though. As one reviewer put it, there are “scents exploding out of the glass.”
Shafer Vineyards – Napa Valley
“Dangerously easy to swallow,” says one reviewer. Like pudding. Or a goldfish in a frat house. We almost want to stop there, except this (rather expensive) Merlot actually offers some rich, juicy fruit and supple tannin. Descriptions do stay kind of weird, though. The winemaker says the 2013 vintage has a “lengthy finish [that] will leave you wanting more.” Yeah…Ahem.
Emmolo Merlot – Napa Valley
Apparently a “full-throttle red” (basically the Jason Statham of Merlot, it’s going to punch you lovingly in the face with fruit and tannin), which it should be for $55. Though one reviewer said the 2013 vintage was “pure candy with a Merlot twist.” Merlot fight?
Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot – Santa Rosa
No surprise these guys rank higher than “Shame Mountain Vineyards.” Roundly described as, well, round, with smooth, dark rich fruits, with more perk and spice, making it akin to a Cabernet. A self-hating Merlot.
Markham Vineyards Merlot – Napa Valley
For $20, not surprised this is in the top 10. More bramble and tannin with all those soft ooey gooey Merlot fruits, kind of like you’re walking through an enchanted forest drinking raspberry-spiked cocoa. (That actually sounds like a nice date idea.)
Pahlmeyer Merlot – Napa Valley
Maybe No. 9, but No. 1 in terms of price — $85 a bottle. Which is to say, we’re really hoping those “aromas of ripe blackberry and wild blueberry” taste like a pie made by Cinderella, and that the “lovely, lingering finish” lingers for days. Like, crash-on-the-couch-indefinitely kinda lingers.
Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Blue Label Merlot – Napa Valley
Points for the longest name on the list. Also good job on Apocalypse Now. A serviceable and softly fruity Merlot for the price. Little known fact: every bottle comes with a Nicolas Cage quote (he’s a Coppola), either from The Rock or Con Air, or any of the other times he freaked out.
Wolffer Estate “Summer in a Bottle” Rosé Merlot – Long Island
Anyone who can capture the essence of sunscreen, travel delays, and cold rosé day drinking gets honorable mention. Also, this one is technically No. 1 according to the Wine-Searcher data, but it’s a rosé, so that’s probably a seasonal fluke. A delicious seasonal fluke.
Also, California clearly dominated the entire list, but two Washington State Merlots almost made the cut: Leonetti Cellar Merlot and Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot.
All data pulled via Wine-Searcher on September 1, 2016