Drinking Merlot Without Knowing It


Did you know that there is a glut of Merlot grapes in California? And not suprisingly, thanks to the success of the movie Sideways there is a shortage of Pinot Noir. But does this mean anything beyond the obvious which is that Pinot Noir wines will get more expensive while Merlot wines will be cheaper?
It certainly does. The next time you buy a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine, it will probably have a lot more Merlot in it than you realize. The truth is that for a Californian winemaker to label a wine a specific varietal, only 75% of that wine must be of that varietal. So for example, a Robert Mondavi wine only needs 75% of it to be from Cabernet Sauvignon for it to be called a Cab. The rest can be any other grape like Merlot. In years when there is an excess of a specific grape, it is used for the remainder 25%.
That’s what’s happening with Merlot this year. So expect to drink a lot more Merlot without really realizing it. Most winemakers follow this practice within certain boundaries as they’re worried about seriously compromising the quality of their wines. The winemakers have businesses to run and like every other business try to use supply and demand to their advantage.


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