Thursday, November 11, 2021

Dan Berger: Merlot

 I like many red wines that use merlot as their sole or dominant grape, especially when the merlot is grown in a cooler climate and has some of its natural varietal aroma characteristics.

    That is a little less likely these days with so many acres of the grape being planted in warmer regions, where its personality can be muted and where its acidity is often insufficient to allow it to work with food.

    I understand how approachable and easy to quaff merlot can be when it's made in an early drinking style. For that reason, there's an awful lot of this kind of wine being produced around the world, including malbec, zinfandel and even cabernet.

    And to be sure, merlot (mare-low) is an attractive red wine grape that's planted in many parts of the world. It emanates from Bordeaux where it is one of the most vital additions to the wines of St.-Emilion and Pomerol. And it is the heart of Chateau Petrus and Masseto, two of the world's most famous wines. 

    Unlike cabernet, with its notorious astringency, merlot makes a lower-tannin red wine that's often more charming than cabernet sauvignon.

    Merlot is best planted in poor soils. Rich, fertile soils can give it too strong of an herbal character. And merlot is usually picked earlier than cabernet, which allows it to avoid rains that could deteriorate the clusters.

    As previously noted, Merlot prefers a cooler or even cold area. As such, it is fine for places such as Washington state's Columbia Valley, the southern reaches of Napa and Sonoma (Carneros), New Zealand (!), California's Central Coast and even southern Tuscany (Bolgheri).

    In recent decades, merlot has made a major impact around the world, mainly since it is seen as a benefit when added to cabernet sauvignon. It is often seen as a lower-tannin version of cabernet. 

    In the mid-2000s, it was disparaged and the butt of jokes, but it can be a brilliant alternative red.

    In France's Pomerol, St.-Emilion and in Washington, it can deliver wines of depth and faint herbal notes (black olives, green tea) that remind me of classic claret. 

    Many California wine companies have made an amorphous, non-varietal kind of merlot with more oak (often from oak chips). Such broad-market wines usually are made to be softer, simpler and not very much like merlot.

    However, when it is produced from grapes grown in a cooler region, especially when the acidity is allowed to remain relatively high, merlot can take on interesting flavor profiles. 

    Quality warmer versions can age for approximately five to seven years, but classic examples such as the aforementioned Petrus can live for decades. But because it was so badly disparaged 20 years ago, much of that bad reputation has remained. As a result, few people age Merlot.

    Cabernet sauvignon is ideally structured to be served with roasted meats, where the fat and protein act as counterpoints to its astringency. By contrast, merlot is a simpler kind of red wine and therefore it works best with lighter red meats, chicken and heavier fish diches such as grilled tuna, barbecued salmon and halibut.

    Wine of the Week: 2019 J. Lohr Merlot, Paso Robles "Los Osos" ($16): An aroma of black cherry, plum and subtle green tea spice and a solid acid base make this warmer-climate merlot an excellent and reasonably priced version of this varietal. 

    To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

I enjoy this column so much every week and have, on more than one occasion, went scouring the aisles at my local wine store for one or more of the suggestions. Thanks, much!

Anonymous said...

I also like to get drunk. Party on.

Anonymous said...

"...remind me of classic claret."

Is this St. John writing under another name? Sounds like the type of nonsensical pretentiousness that he would write. "Classic claret" - I'll bet it pairs well with traditional spaghetti alla puttanesca made the old-fashioned way...

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS