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US Merlot: Panel tasting results

Sideways the movie may have turned Merlot into a punchline following its release back in 2004, but the popularity of wines made with the grape in the US remains undimmed, and our judges have uncovered some gems.

Ronan Sayburn MS, Eugenio Egorov and Ben Gubbins tasted 49 wines with 3 Outstanding and 17 Highly recommended.

US Merlot: Panel tasting scores

49 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 3

Highly recommended 17

Recommended 27

Commended 2

Fair 0

Poor 0


Entry criteria: Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their current-release Merlot red wines from any recognised US wine region, containing a minimum of 75% Merlot if in a blend with other varieties


It’s 20 years since the protagonist in the movie Sideways – Miles, a dedicated Pinot-phile – expressed his utter disdain for Merlot. Not long after the film came out, figures released by market analyst Nielsen showed a 16% jump in sales of Pinot Noir against the previous year, along with a 2% decrease in sales of Merlot. A study carried out by economist Stephen Cuellar of Sonoma State University and two colleagues, and released four years after the movie, showed a similar effect.

The small drop in Merlot sales, despite the devastating put-downs of Miles, may be an indication of the continued popularity of this variety with many consumers – it’s soft, approachable, easy to pronounce and can offer rich and deep, ripe fruit. At one time, it was even talked about as a potential contender for Cabernet Sauvignon’s crown.


Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores from the US Merlot panel tasting



US Merlot panel tasting scores

The following wines all scored 90 points or above. Wines were tasted blind.


The judges

Ronan Sayburn MS is CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers European chapter and runs his own consultancy and wine training company, RS Wine Academy. A Co-Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, he is also a previous winner of the UK Sommelier of the Year competition

Eugenio Egorov is head sommelier at AA five-star The Stafford in London. Born in Ukraine, he began his hospitality career in restaurants in Italy and Florida, USA, before moving to London in 2014, where he rose through the ranks as a sommelier at the likes of 45 Park Lane and The Dorchester

Ben Gubbins is general manager and WSET wine educator at Vagabond Wines in London. A native of Chile, he previously worked as UK & Europe sales director for Dos Andes Wines before joining Vagabond in 2013


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