Overrated: Merlot a 'not ready for prime time' wine

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I can't afford to be a wine snob, but let's pretend for a moment that I could. The first bit of snobbery you'd see from me would be the banishing of all but the most famous merlot varietal wines from my cellar. I'm right there with Miles in the movie Sideways when he says, "If anyone orders a f****** Merlot, I'm leaving."

Understand that I'm not referring to the Merlots of the Pomerol region such as Chateau Petrus, the priciest wine in the world. (No, I've never been able to afford a Petrus. Yet.) I'm referring to those grapes strip-mined in the vineyards of California, Chile and other bulk producing countries.

Those Merlot grapes are not a cinch to grow, as they have thin skins, are susceptible to rot, mildew and various maladies, and are intolerant of extreme weather. However, the wines mature quickly and, though a bit insipid, have a hint of Cab's variety of bouquets, enough so that many producers have deluded themselves into producing 100% Merlot wines.

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Merlot blends well with superior grapes such as cabernet sauvignon for some great wines such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild. As a varietal, however, I find the reasonably priced bottles lack complexity and depth, while the bottom tier reminds me of unsweetened cranberry juice. Other critics use words such as "thin, acidic, and green."

That's what I'd write about Merlot, if I were a wine snob. Don't agree? Perhaps a glass of Chateau Petrus would sway my opinion... A guy can dream, can't he?

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