It’s been 10 years since Sideways was released, but you’d think it was just yesterday. Merlot sales are still affected by Miles’s (played by Paul Giamatti) now-famous outburst decrying the variety. Despite his protestations, if you’re a fan of deep, dark fruit flavors and supple, velvety texture, it’s time to give Merlot a try. The following selections are a great place to start.
Arbor Crest 2012 Four Vineyards Merlot (Columbia Valley); $18, 91 points. A sensational value, the grapes come from top vineyards that generally command high prices. Tobacco and cherry scents roll smoothly into a rich, dense palate loaded with kirsch, crème de cassis and framboise flavors. The fruit is concentrated, sappy and deep. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Suvla 2012 Merlot (Thrace); $17, 91 points. Deep garnet in color with a bright rim, this wine has a nose of black cherry, strawberry and anise. Flavors of black cherry, wild strawberry, fennel bulb and a touch of eucalyptus mingle on the palate amid velvety tannins. A last-second burst of bright cherry lights up the silky finish. —Mike DeSimone
Esser 2012 Merlot (Monterey County); $13, 91 points. A bit reductive, yet pleasantly so, this bouquet also expresses herb aromas of dried oregano and chopped green pepper. The palate is a strong blend of spice, particularly black pepper, and fruit, including plum jam and sour and black cherries. Best Buy. —Matt Kettmann
Flora Springs 2012 Merlot (Napa Valley); $25, 90 points. This 100% Merlot is juicy in black cherry and plum flavors, followed by outbursts of dusty tannin that provide just enough grip. The savory cinnamon and clove aspects are backed by toasty oak, a silky texture and plenty of acidity. Editors’ Choice. —Virginie Boone
Gibbs 2010 Money Road Merlot (Oakville); $24, 90 points. Concentrated and generous in sweet red fruit, this is a gangbuster Oakville Merlot for the price. Balanced in fruit, herb and dry tannin, it’s a lovable quaff from a well-known vineyard. —V.B.
StoneCap 2012 Estate Grown Merlot (Columbia Valley); $10, 90 points. This seduces with flavors of juicy, ripe berries, spicy plums and black cherries. It delivers the complexity, density and mocha finish of a much more expensive Merlot. Best Buy. —P.G.