In my October 20, 2016, blog I reported on a study completed by Sonoma State University and the Wine Business Institute on U.S. consumer wine preferences. I reported in that article that 50% of the survey respondents selected Chardonnay as their #1 wine choice.
In Part 2 of my series on the survey’s consumer wine choices I want to report on the participants’ number two choice: Merlot. Merlot was selected by 49% of the people as the second most popular wine varietal.
The California Wine Institute reports that Merlot is the second leading red varietal after Cabernet Sauvignon based on purchases by Americans today.
Researchers speculate there are several possible reasons for Merlot’s popularity:
- New wine drinkers may be linking moderate red wine drinking to a healthy lifestyle.
- White wine drinkers may be expanding their wine preferences to red wine.
- In both instances above, Merlot may be the choice because of the soft, approachable flavor profile that may appeal to new and regular red wine drinkers.
- In restaurants, Merlot’s average price is similar to the average price of the ever popular Chardonnay varietal. This was reported by Wine & Spirits magazine in their poll of restaurants.
Merlot is a dark blue-colored grape that is used both for blending and for varietals: pronounced vuh-rahy-i-tl. In winemaking, that term designates a wine made entirely or chiefly from one variety of grapes.
Merlot has strong ties to French and Bordeaux wines. Merlot is the most popular and widely planted wine grape in France. In French, Merlot means “Little Blackbird” and is known for being soft and easy to drink. Because it is so approachable it is often recommended as the first red wine someone new to red wine should try.
To get a feel for how popular Merlot is in our area, I reached out to several friends in the restaurant and wine business and asked for their opinion and feedback. Here is what they had to say about Merlot:
“Overall Merlot sales have been fairly flat the last few years. We see an uptick in sales during the holiday season as Merlot is a safe purchase for a gift. The wine isn’t too dry and not too light.”
– Stan Minden, Chalet Party Shoppe, Elkhart
“Merlot is our number three most popular wine by the glass behind two Cabernet Sauvignons. However, our bottle sales of Merlot are relatively low.”
– Tom Borger, McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk, Elkhart
“Merlot by the bottle ranks sixth among reds sold at Tapastrie. Overall it only represents about 7% of all bottles sold. In glass pours it falls to 13th place out of 14. I was surprised at these numbers as I would of thought it would be more of a “go to” wine for those not as interested in experimenting with different wines.”
– Tom Welsh, Tapastrie Restaurant, South Bend
After getting these numbers from my friends I checked our Merlot sales at Tiedemann Wines and found pretty much the same trends. It ranks pretty low in sales.
I think Merlot-based wines are perfect for lunch or dinner. Because of their naturally soft textures and rich flavors, Merlots pair well with an array of foods and cheeses.
If you haven’t tried any Merlot lately perhaps you should. I know I am going to.
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Until next week,