Merlot for Masochists

“What a lot of Merlot we got, not” was the theme song to last year’s Best Value Guide blind tastings as only 27 Merlots were entered as opposed to 88 red blends. It’s 10 years since the Hollywood hit Sideways sent sales of Merlot into a tailspin in the USA. As Wikipedia records “a 2009 study by Sonoma State University found that Sideways slowed the growth in Merlot sales volume and caused its price to fall, but the film’s main effect on the wine industry was a rise in the sales volume and price of Pinot Noir, and in overall wine consumption.”

Sideways 615x461 Merlot for Masochists

Merlot remains a contradictory cultivar. Widely derided by anoraks as being too tannic, too minty or too one-dimensional (unless it is Château Pétrus and they can see the label) it remains a firm favourite in SA restaurants. Which confirms the reach of anoraks and their pretentious opinions to be sub-atomic.

The most unusual feature of the Merlot category at the BVG tasting was a negative correlation of -0.26 between price and score. Roughly speaking, the more you pay for the wine, the worse it tastes. So its Merlot for masochists. And the Wine Lizard was not even on the panel.

Reassigning Merlot prices so that the cheaper the wine, the lower the score, we can rank entries in terms of a discount when comparing quality to sticker price. On this criterion, the best five Merlot buys in SA (as submitted to the BVG) are

Africa Five Merlot 2012 15.80 R40.37
Goudini Wines Umfiki Merlot NV 15.30 R30.00
Stellenbosch Vineyards Welmoed Merlot 2012 15.00 R36.95
Bonnievale Merlot 2012 15.30 R40.00
Simonsvlei Lifestyle Merlot 2012 14.70 R29.99

The best value wine is made by Waterstone Wines, a producer without a homepage. But interestingly enough, Waterstone Winery in the Napa Valley is one of those cult Californian producers the heroes of Sideways may have visited on their peregrinations.