ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is Merlot a one-dimensional wine? I saw a newscast last night from a reputable wine shop and the guy was talking about how simple and one-dimensional Merlots are. I have tasted great Merlots with a lot of depth and structure that were not one-dimensional. Am I wrong?

—Robert, Downey, Calif.

Dear Robert,

No, Robert. You're not wrong. There are many wonderful Merlot and Merlot-based wines out there. But Merlot does have a bit of an image problem. It wasn't helped by the movie Sideways, which had a character famously shout out, "I'm not drinking any [expletive] Merlot!"

Why the bad rap? Merlot was all the rage in the '90s, loved for its fruity, soft profile. (I like to describe Merlot as a less-tannic version of Cabernet Sauvignon.) One can argue that it was a victim of its own success—planted and overplanted, resulting in some rather uninspiring wines. Wine shelves might be a bit heavy with one-dimensional Merlots, but I can say the same thing about many other wines, too.

Looking for a great Merlot? Check out our Wine Search database. My favorites include the Merlot-based wines of Bordeaux's Right Bank and some wonderful versions from California, Washington, Long Island, Chile and Italy.

—Dr. Vinny


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