Oh, Merlot. What a sadly abused grape it is. Ever since Sideways came out—and we’re talking twelve years ago now—Merlot has been a byword for “uncool wine.” Add that to the fact that it’s always been shoved to the side as sort-of-like-Cabernet-but-not-as-interesting, and you have a real image problem. I’m tempted to call it the Coldplay of grapes.
But to that I will say one thing: 2009 Château Troplong Mondot. I had this wine on a recent trip to Bordeaux, and if anyone wants a red that will convince them in about five seconds that Merlot can make absolutely outstanding, utterly gorgeous wines, track down a bottle of this Sainte-Émilion grand cru classé right now. Still very young (but at least approachable), it’s layered with luscious blackberry, espresso and dark chocolate flavors; it’s powerfully tannic, but the tannins are so ripe that they feel plush and blanketing rather than astringent. It’s 15.5 percent alcohol, which puts it into the uncool zone when it comes to cool-kid wine folk, but the hell with that, I say. I’d drink this wine all day and all night and be thrilled by every sip.
Er—if only I could afford it. The 2009 Troplong Mondot runs about $220 a bottle. It’s one of the few wines I’ve tasted this year that justifies that kind of price, but the fact that the price is justified has very little to do with my own checking account balance.