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"Buy a Cab or a Merlot?"

  by Fred McMillin


Lohr Considered to be Cabernet Sauvignon's slightly less clever brother, Merlow (mehr-LOW) is a kinder, gentler wine.

...Jack Mingo, Wannabe Guide to Wine

Merlot has become the hottest red variety in the United States, increasing by 30% per year in sales

...Michael Bonadies, Sip By Sip

Capitalizing on this exploding popularity, critic James Laube warned against the "lake of murky, mediocre Merlots. Beware of the inexpensive ones."

...Wine Spectator


The Rest of the Story

To explore that murky Merlot lake of inexpensive bottles, we compared them with equally-priced Cabernet Sauvignon last summer, as reported in this Annex. Sure enough, below $17 the Cabs won every match. Above $17, Merlot won four out of five. So, if I'm spending $10 for a red wine to drink tonight, I'm more likely to buy a Cab than a Merlot.

But was that tasting a fluke? To check I recently poured another six pair for my panel, from bottles carefully wrapped by my associate, Edgar Vogt.

Here are the results.

Price of the Pair Winning Grape Vintage Winning Winery
$8 Cab '96 R. Mondavi Woodbridge
$9 Merlot '96 Bogle
$14 Cab '94 J. Lohr Seven Oaks
$21 Merlot '95 Gundlach-Bundschu, Rhinefarm
$22 Merlot '96 Pezzi King, Dry Creek
$50 Merlot '95 Beringer, Howell Mtn.


Inexpensive Cabs and more expensive Merlots are still looking good.

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