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Long Island to adopt Merlot?

Long Island’s 35 producers are hotly debating whether their region, 90 miles east of New York, should adopt Merlot as its flagship wine.

A handful of top wineries have begun forming a trade group, the East End Merlot Alliance, to promote merlot as the top wine of the region. Merlot has become synonymous with Long Island the way Pinot Noir defines Oregon.

Opponents to the alliance say producers should stress the region’s diversity, pointing to increasingly successful varieties such as Cabernet Franc as well as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

The critics fear a merlot alliance would hurt the Long Island Wine Council, a trade association representing all 35 producers. But alliance sponsors believe a commercially beneficial co-existence is possible.

Vineyards make up about 3,000 acres of land on the island, of which 666 are Merlot, 542 Chardonnay and 209 Cabernet Franc.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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