Merlot's Back From the Brink

The economy's lousy, but cheap wine doesn't have to be
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2009 1:54 PM CDT
Napa Creek Winery merlot is tasted at the Bistro Don Giovanni restaurant in this file photo June 24, 2005, in Napa, Calif.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
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(Newser) – Merlot is “a meatloaf kind of wine,” and in a recession, such comforting, cheap stuff ought to be appealing, write Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher in their Wall Street Journal Tastings column. Unfortunately, “most inexpensive Merlot has been really bad for a really long time.” Winemakers exploited its sudden popularity a decade ago by churning out barrels of awful stuff. Now there's hope.

Gaiter and Brecher conducted a 50-bottle blind tasting with dread. But their first sip was a pleasant surprise. “Real wine,” they wrote. And it wasn’t a fluke. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Charles Krug 2005, $18.79: “Tight black core … nothing phony about it.”
  • Ravenswood "Vinters Blend" 2006, $9.99: “So very drinkable, not at all heavy or too grapey.”
  • Simi Winery 2005, $15.99: “Tastes a bit hot, but it’s real wine, with some edges.”
  • Di Bruno 2006, $34: "All of the class, character, structure and stature of an expensive Bordeaux."