Final Confessions of a Merlot Lover
This is my farewell blog. I want to thank Wine Spectator for giving me a few pages to express myself on, but it is time to go. I have not really exhausted my subject, but other obligations call me. I have come to an even greater respect for writers and bloggers everywhere after attempting to keep up with the demands of writing a feature regularly for even a couple of months.
So I have reserved this last blog for a shocking confession.
I know that this blog may stigmatize me in the eyes of snobs everywhere, but I can't help it. And truly I say it with a bit of trepidation. There are some of you out there who may come to scorn me henceforth and forever more. Still, I must confess.
I've always been a lover of Merlot.
My secret lust began in childhood, in my impoverished childhood where all we could afford was the likes of a generic B&G St.-Emilion from the Washington State Liquor Control Board shop. But I knew from the start that these calcareous slopes of the Right Bank would always have a cherished part of my heart.
I love Merlot. Not any Merlot, mind you, but St.-Emilions such as La Mondotte, Canon-La Gaffelière, Pavie, Pavie-Decesse, Pavie-Macquin, Figeac and Magdeleine. And Pomerols like Vieux-Château-Certan, Certan de May, Trotanoy, Clinet, Gazin, L'Église Clinet, Lafleur, Conseillante, Valandraud and, dare I say, Pétrus. Even Merlot blended with Cabernet Franc like Château Cheval-Blanc. In Napa, I love Duckhorn Three Palms, Lewis, Matanzas Creek, Rubicon Estate, Paloma, Beringer, Pride, Sirita and many others, and in Italy, Masseto and Tua Rita. Are these wines unworthy? Are they repulsive? Please help me here, because it has become a mark of shame to order Merlot in a restaurant in our country today.
Why is this love a love that dare not say its name? Why is this an illicit love today?
Because of a character in a film, a self-professed wine snob who steals from his mother's dresser on her birthday and drinks desperately from a spit bucket. (Would you trust a person who could drink from a spit bucket?)
This is the authority, the ultimate critic, a fictitious character who has turned the attitude of an entire nation, perhaps the entire world, against a noble grape. Miles, you are a scoundrel, a bucket-swilling scoundrel! But apparently a charming and convincing scoundrel, since so many have fallen for your subterfuge. Miles is, you see, a hypocrite, or really not so clever about wine after all, since he kept hidden for his own private pleasure a bottle of a wine that is substantially Merlot, Château Cheval-Blanc, the wine he wound up drinking with a burger. (Apparently the author had originally wanted to use Château Pétrus as Miles' Holy Grail, an even more obviously ironic choice.)
I must also confess that although I am a great lover of Merlot, I am not faithful to Merlot. I love Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grüner Veltliner, Syrah, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Grenache, Albariño, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and many other varieties. In fact, I also love Pinot Noir, too.
And of course, I do not love all Merlot, just as I do not love all Riesling or Cabernet or Pinot Noir.
That is the beauty of wine, after all: You can love more than one wine and one grape. Unlike in a marriage, promiscuous love of many grapes is not a betrayal of the love for any one of them. That is why Miles' rejection of Merlot was fundamentally so wrong, so infantile.
What counts in any wine, whatever the grape or origin, is quality, however you, dear reader, wish to define quality for yourself.
Perhaps some of you wish to share with the rest of us your experiences with great Merlot. It may be a beginning to restore our communal faith in the grape. Let the healing begin.