International Merlot Day is here – seriously, it’s celebrated every November 7 – and we’re about to tell you why this pretty grape from France deserves a front row seat in your wine rack.
The name is cool.
The name was picked up from the regional French patois word “merlot,” which means “young blackbird” (“merle” is the French word for several kinds of thrushes, including blackbirds – etymology nerd alert!).
Why blackbirds? Well, they love munching on Merlot grapes (much to the chagrin of hardworking winegrowers). The grape is also famous for its beautifully dark, blue-black color.
It’s no Cher, but it knows how to make a comeback.
Back in the 80s, California Merlot was one of the most popular reds with America’s first major wine drinking demo, the Baby Boomers. It was smooth, approachable, French-sounding, and easily had for a good price. But then 2004 happened, and Sideways came out. It was in this Oscar-winning film that Paul Giamatti’s famously flawed, Pinot-swilling male lead Miles Raymond hated on Merlot so hard, a whole generation of Merlot fans left the theaters, wringing their hands over their now-unfashionable palates. Sales dropped; wine snobs who didn’t know any better scoffed. And it’s taken over a decade for this ridiculous varietal prejudice to fade significantly – but thanks in part to California’s string of awesome recent vintages, Merlot is BACK, big time. (Suck it, Miles.)
It’s kind of a rockstar.
In Bordeaux, Merlot is responsible for some of the most famous, stunning, and expensive wines ever. In the premium district of Pomerol, Pétrus is made purely from Merlot – and a bottle (depending on the year) will run you thousands. The most expensive Pétrus ever sold was at an auction in New York City back in 2011 – the 1961 vintage went for $144,000. For. One. Bottle. It’s also reportedly Beyoncé’s favorite red so … there’s that.
Hopefully, this gives you more than one good reason to head over to virginwines.com, search through our amazing Merlot selection, and indulge yourself in something tasty. (Unless you’ve got Paul McCartney’s bank account – then, we say treat yo’self to some of that Pétrus.) Cheers!