Monday, August 3, 2009

Take Your Gloves Off: Merlot vs. Pinot Noir

Latent Response to the Anti-Merlot Movement

When I first saw Sideways, I empathized with Miles as he felt the sting of having his novel rejected, then pitied the hapless Jack as he sowed his wild oats, but never once did I contemplate dropping an old love, merlot, for a more fashionable belle, pinot noir.

Like Miles, some winemakers and wine aficionados have tossed merlot aside like a worn-out toy. What’s up with that? Sorry, but I’m not buying in.

Sure, there were wimpy merlots made in the wake of its over-planting in the 1990s, but the same can be said of pinot noir after the influx of “mare-low”. The anti-merlot movement has, in effect, written off one of history’s great varietals because a cult film brought notoriety to the improper handling of merlot by a few.

To be clear, I enjoy pinot as much or more than merlot; I’m just not ready to throw the latter under the bus without good cause.

Despite the bad press, merlot continues to be worthy of the finest hour. Try convincing people buying Château Pétrus, a Pomerol made from 100% merlot and one of the most expensive wines in the world, that they are investing in second-rate juice.

Furthermore, modern-day merlot has descended from the ranks of nobility. Do you want to let one cult movie dictate which wine to enjoy? “Well, do ya, punk?” *** Didn’t think so.

About six months ago, I opened a bottle of 1995 Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley Merlot. The wine had plenty of gusto left on its 14-year-old bones (that’s 90 in dog and merlot years). The nose showed dark ripe fruit, vanilla and anise; the flavors were broad and concentrated; the tannin-acid structure was holding steady. If it were any bigger, the wine would have to shop at a big and tall shop. Dip a paintbrush in a glass and spread it on some canvas.

*** from the movie Dirty Harry

Notes: (1) In all probability, this post should have been made right after Sideways was released, but I didn’t blog back then; (2) I worked at Michel-Schlumberger in the 90s, but have no affiliation today.

No comments: