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Knocked Sideways
Merlot is suddenly uncool -- but the great ones still shine
Thursday, February 24, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
By W. Blake Gray, Chronicle Staff Writer

Continued..

But when Merlot is good, it's wonderful in a way no other varietal can achieve. A great Merlot is gentle, yet fruity; easy to drink, yet elegant and interesting. It can be as generic as supermarket jug wine -- in fact, the so- called international style of red wines is based largely on the taste of Merlot. But a great Merlot can also be as complex as the finest Cabernet, without the formidable tannins or the necessity of bottle aging for decades.

"It's Cabernet without the punishment," says Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery winemaker Mark Lyon, who makes what I think is the best Merlot in current release in California. (See "Top 10 California Merlots," Page F6.)

Beginner-friendly wine

Merlot achieved rapid prominence because at its best, it's the easiest fine wine for novices to appreciate. It's ironic that these are now the very consumers who won't let friends overhear them ordering it.

Katie Couric said on NBC's "Today Show" that she's heard she's not supposed to drink Merlot. A New York City waiter posted an entry on the blog waiterrant.blogspot.com in which multiple patrons chastised him ("Haven't you seen 'Sideways'?") when he told them the by-the-glass special was Merlot.

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