For the last 15 years, almost any article that’s mentioned merlot has talked about the so-called “Sideways effect,” which refers to the drop in merlot sales that followed the movie’s famous line: “I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!” While cheap, merlot was so popular back then that the grape deserved some derision (the notion that merlot is subpar is a joke). A quality bottle can compete with any cabernet, and many merlots offer a lot more bang for your buck. Also, like cabernet sauvignon, merlot is an ideal match for red meat. Markham Vineyards Merlot ($14, totalwine.com) and Frei Brothers Reserve Merlot ($18, wine.com) are good ones. If you want to level up, Pahlmeyer Napa Merlot ($80, totalwine.com) and La Jota Vineyard Merlot ($85, lajotavineyardco.com) are absolutely killer pairings for leaner cuts of beef.
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