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What to drink in October #MerlotMe

October 1, 2014

MerlotME -

Your perception of wine made with Merlot might have something to do with a) where in the world you live and b) whether you have watched the film Sideways.

For those not in the latter category, this is a film about a couple of guys who go on a trip around Santa Barbara wine country in the US. Miles, who thinks he knows a lot about wine and reveres Pinot Noir, and is utterly disparaging about Merlot.

If anyone orders Merlot I am leaving. I am not drinking f***ing Merlot!

The irony is that an expensive and rare bottle of wine he is keeping at home for a special occasion is a 1961 Cheval Blanc is is a blend of about 49 percent Merlot and 51 percent Cabernet Franc.

Until varietal labeling hit our shelves a couple of decades ago in Europe, we drank Merlot without even thinking about it, usually blended with other grapes lending a soft, velvet mouthfeel with plum and chocolate or tobacco flavours to balance more tannic, structured elements from other grapes varieties. Any backlash has come from the cheaper, bulk wines, often from the New World that flooded the market.

To encourage everyone to love the much maligned, supremely versatile and, in the right hands, very lovely grape variety, the #MerlotMe campaign has been launched and starts today. This is a month-long celebration, including sharing, tasting and events (centred in the US). Like all these varietal events on social media, everyone around the world can join in and share their Merlot moments by using the hashtag #merlotme.

My Custard Pie: what to drink for #merlotme

What to drink during MerlotMe month?

I asked wine experts from the two main suppliers in Dubai for drinking suggestions in three price ranges. I also asked for a wine which was made with grapes grown with organic viticulture. You can probably get these wines where you live if you want to try them. Unless you live in the heart of a wine producing region where they grow Merlot, in which case hit the vineyards with a vengeance (I would). Here’s what Tony and Fraser recommended:

Affordable (30 – 40 AED)

  • Valdivieso Merlot, Chile: – A school night classic – easy drinking and satisfying plummy Merlot with a hint of mocha. 39 AED MMI
  • Bio Bio Merlot IGT :Italian wine, made from organic grapes and delivering fantastic value for money. Good quality wine with a conscience.  30-49 AED* A+E

A little bit more, (AED 45 – 70)

  • Torres Atrium Merlot, Penedes, Spain:  Shows a mature side of Merlot – a bit more serious and grown-up. 61 AED MMI
  • Casa Merlot, Lapostolle Founded by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and her husband in 1994, Lapostolle’s aim is to produce world-class wines using French expertise and the terroirs of Chile. 100% of their vineyards are under organic and biodynamic management. French in Essence. Chilean By Birth. 45 – 50 AED* A+E

Blow the budget (over 100 AED)

  • Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley, CA , USA The wine that made Duckhorn famous – an absolute quacker. 280 AED MMI
  • Merlot, Morgenhof  Morgenhof Wine Estate is situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountains. This area is renowned
    for the high quality of its grapes and the distinctive terroir is reflected in the character of the exceptional
    wines. Owned by Mrs Cointreau, it consists of 212 hectares of which 74 hectares are under vines. 110 – 120* AED (Select stores) A+E


  • Bonterra Merlot, California  Smoky and dense with a purity of fruit, from a much improved property of late. 97 AED MMI
  • See ‘affordable’ for Fraser’s recommendation from A+E.

Where to buy in the UAE

A+E in Dubai and Abu Dhabi stores, as well as their new shop in Fujairah (Fujairah Cellars). MMI at 14 shops located across Dubai and the Al Hamra Cellar in the Northern Emirates. Make sure you have a liquor license.

Thanks to Tony Dodds, Head of Group Agency Wine at MMI and Fraser Mackenzie, Marketing Manager Wine at African and Eastern (A+E) for their picks. *Fraser supplied wines recommendations within a price range – for the individual price per bottle please check in store. Prices for all wines exclude Dubai sales tax and are correct at time of writing this.

My Custard Pie: what to drink for #merlotme

My own personal Sideways moment

For a brilliant guide to Merlot tasting, food pairing (it is superbly food friendly) and the main differences between cool and warm climate Merlot, visit Wine Folly. If you follow me on Twitter (@mycustardpie) I’ll be sharing any #MerlotMe events that I hear about in the UAE.

More Merlot or still not convinced? Will you be raising a glass this October and what will be in it?

  1. October 1, 2014 10:32 am

    ‘Sideway’s is one of my favourite films ever! Just brilliant. And I do love a good Merlot too. Thanks for this informative post, Sally.

    • October 5, 2014 9:39 am

      I love it too – it’s a slow-moving, gentle observation of character with loads of pathos.

  2. glamorous glutton permalink
    October 1, 2014 11:03 am

    I hadn’t realised Merlot was quite so disparaged. We had wonderful Merlot in Argentina and had been looking for similar here in the UK. Surprisingly we came across an interesting one made in Washington USA. Still picked the Argentinian though. GG

    • October 5, 2014 9:42 am

      I think it depends on where you come from. It’s fashionable to look down on it in the US – I think it became known as a wine that old people drink!

  3. October 1, 2014 11:05 am

    Love Merlot! Share a bottle soon maybe?

  4. October 1, 2014 2:28 pm

    It’s a it early in the morning here, but I do like Merlot and it’s good to have some recommendations.

    • October 5, 2014 9:43 am

      You should be able to get most of these in the UK. Wine for breakfast – not advisable unless it’s Champagne at Christmas.

  5. October 1, 2014 2:46 pm

    What a fantastic well researched piece! I’m quite partial to a Merlot but alas… as of today I am going teetotal in a bid to lose some weight!

    • October 5, 2014 9:44 am

      I’m sure that wine calories don’t count….

  6. October 1, 2014 3:37 pm

    There is excellent cool climate Merlot in New York State — both Long Island and the Finger Lakes.

    • October 5, 2014 9:45 am

      Not something we can get our hands on here in the UAE – would love to taste some.

  7. October 1, 2014 4:12 pm

    Good grape …Merlot. When I collected wine and had some money..before I came to of my best purchases “en primeur” was ’96 Cheval Blanc..I never got to drink it as I had to sell it to pay for some of the refurbishment to our first house here:)

    • October 5, 2014 9:46 am

      Well I guess you can’t live in a bottle of wine 🙂 The bottle shown here was courtesy of a generous and much better off than us friend …

  8. October 2, 2014 1:13 am

    Great piece, just wish I wasn’t allergic to wine!

  9. October 2, 2014 5:38 am

    Sideways was a funny movie. Even funnier when you know just how many godawful Pinot Noirs there are from California. 😉 I never understood why Americans went so crazy for Merlot a few years back (explainable only by our strange fascination with grape names rather than what is a good wine). Merlot can be good, but I still think that the French have it right by using it primarily in a blend.

    • October 5, 2014 9:49 am

      Burgundy is still my preferred choice for a Pinot Noir. The new world wines seem too sterile… not a whiff of cabbage amongst them.

  10. ramblingtart permalink
    October 2, 2014 1:35 pm

    I thoroughly enjoy Merlot. 🙂 I’d be happy taste testing my way through every label on your list. 🙂

    • October 5, 2014 9:50 am

      I’d love to join you in a glass or two 🙂

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