As I approached this month’s column, I decided I wanted to concentrate on the most popular wine styles in America. So I did some research on what’s trending. According to MSN.com, White Zinfandel still reigns supreme as America’s favorite wine. But don’t get your panties in a bunch thinking I’m about to give you a list of White Zinfandels to try. I consider White Zinfandel an alcoholic substitute for a can of soda. And since you don’t need me to write you a review of Coke vs Pepsi, you certainly don’t need me trying to pull descriptions out of the air for a collection of White Zinfandels.
So I followed a thread to the originator of the list in the MSN article, a website called YouGov. I learned that despite White Zin making it to the head of the class, Americans are still primarily red wine drinkers. (According to the YouGov survey, 69% of Americans claim to be red drinkers.)
The OTHER most popular wine styles in America
I returned to the original MSN list and found that, among reds, Merlot and Cabernet are the most popular wine styles in America. And so that’s how I came to the conclusion that my Woman on Wine column is due for a focus on Cabs and Merlots.
Although they might be among the most popular wine styles in America, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot bottlings are not among my favorite wines. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who follows this column. If I am going to drink either of these varietals, I tend to prefer them in blends, such as a Bordeaux blend or Meritage. A Meritage, (pronounced Merit-edge, not Merry-tahhhj), is simply a blend of Bordeaux grapes made outside of France’s Bordeaux region. The blend can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot or Carmenère.
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, why do I have to drink the most popular wine styles in America, anyway? But here’s the thing. Like me, you may prefer a Pinot or a Rosé or even a bottle of Champagne. But what if you need to buy a wine as a host gift? Or what if you’re tasked with ordering wine for the table when you’re out to dinner? Isn’t it good to be armed with a selection of crowd pleasers? So here are a handful of selections to help you impress your boss, win over a date or simply make your friends happy (and possibly drunk).
My Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Recommendations:
Yes, the first wine on my list is neither a Cab nor Merlot but a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The resulting wine is complex, with an inky color and great weight. What I like most about this wine is that you get to support the arts as you drink since the label art was commissioned by Canadian painter Sheri Bakes.
If you’re going to drink Merlot, why not make it Duckhorn? And if you’re going to splurge for Duckhorn, then why not go for the best of the best? If you want an age-worthy Merlot, this would be a solid choice. On the nose, it offers blackberry, plums and a hint of cinnamon, with more dark fruit flavors on the palate. But what I like most about this wine is the silky tannins.
And if you want to drink Merlot at an everyman price, consider looking to Washington State for something like this Canoe Ridge wine. A very nice wine for under $25 it offers the dark fruit flavors you would expect, along with a hint of spice and fine tannins.
This Sonoma-grown Cabernet represents good value when compared with some of its Napa neighbors. A well-structured wine, it offers blackberry, tobacco and spice aromas. In the mouth, this medium-bodied wine offers the freshness of great acidity and black cherry, plum and mocha flavors.
Although this wine boasts just enough Cab to be labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a blend with 18% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. A Paso Robles Cab, it’s a big wine. Yet it isn’t one of those drink only to warm up in winter sort of Cabs. The wine’s freshness is like bottled summertime with loads of bright, currant and cherry flavors.
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