"A Clash of Titans: Cab vs Merlot

  by Fred McMillin


California Wine Grape Acreage—The largest increase last year was not in Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but in Merlot.

...Data from Gladys Horiuchi, Wine Institute

with so many new Merlot vineyards coming on line, and the temptation for vintners to stretch yields to meet the seemingly insatiable demand, there is a certain sameness to much of the Merlot [made] largely to compete in the lower price range.

...Charles Laverick, Wine Enthusiast

There is a virtual lake of murky, mediocre Merlots out there. Beware of the inexpensive ones.

...James Laube, Wine Spectator

The Rest of the Story

Are the low-cost Merlots really so mediocre? We explored it in our last BLIND tasting, matching 10 Merlots from $7 to $28 against Cabernet Sauvignon bottles of the SAME price and same vintage year.

When my associate, Edgar Vogt, removed the wrappings he'd put on the 10 pairs, this is what we found.

(Scott's Panel Tasters)

Here's the winner of each matchup.(We'll omit the losers.)

Price of the Pair Winning Varietal Vintage Winning Winery
$7 Cab '96 CK Mondavi (Charles Krug)
$10 Cab '96 Napa Ridge (Beringer)
$10.50 Cab '96 Charles Mitchell
$11 Cab '96 Wente Vineyards
$16 Cab '95 Charles Krug
$17.50 Merlot '93 Bogle (Reserve Merlot)
$20 Cab '95 Raymond (Reserve Cab)
$24 Merlot '95 St. Clement
$24 Merlot '94 Lockwood (Reserve)
$28 Merlot '95 Clos du Val


So, Charles, James and the test results agree that one should approach low-priced California Merlots cautiously. Case closed!



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