I suppose it is about time that I answered this question in a larger forum because it is one that I get asked all the time.
Many of you have posed this question and I usually come back with this answer: “Merlot is something that everyone loves to hate until they try it.” If my prior hospitality and tasting room experience can be extrapolated a bit, pouring a Merlot for a customer in a tasting room goes something like this:
Me: “Alrighty then, the next wine we have to try is our Merlot.”
Customer: “Oh that’s ok I don’t like Merlot.”
Me: “Really? Well let me try and change your mind. I will even pour you just a little bit to taste.”
Customer: “Oh wow! That is actually really good!! I’ve never liked Merlot before.”
60% of the time it happens every time. My only guess as to why this happens is because there are a bunch of folks out there who have had bad experience with Merlot. Then the good ‘ole fashion word-of-mouth marketing takes over and soon enough Merlot isn’t worth anyone’s time.
Or maybe this is just a Napa thing. Maybe Merlot takes a back seat because Cabernet Sauvignon is king here. This brings me to my second answer to the question, “Because it isn’t Cab.” In a valley where Cab is king I want to have a little competition. Can a Napa Merlot be “as good” as a Napa Cab? I don’t think I am going out on a limb if I say yes. I will acknowledge that they can both be excellent for very different reasons. Merlot will never be Cab, which is possibly the greatest thing about it, though there are some who try really hard to make it so.
Realistically it is probably the combination of a few things, but I think it is high time Merlot stopped being the wine that folks love to hate.