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by Fred McMillin
for June 2004

Wine

 

Is Syrah Overtaking Merlot?

The Last Red-Wine Fad

In the early 1990s Merlot demand "quickly went crazy." Consequently, California production tripled in just a few years as a result of the fad. BUT, "remember Pouilly-Fuisse, the lovely white wine from France that became widely popular in the 1970s. [Production increased] and soon the boom busted. Is the same in store for Merlot?"

—from the Wall St. Journal Guide to Wine by Gaiter and Brecher

The Next Red-Wine Fad?

In the late 1990s "Syrah emerged as one of the most exciting new developments in California wine", with the early-drinking appeal of Merlot.

—from California Wine by James Laube

Just how good are the new, trendy Syrahs? Better than the Merlots? To get an answer, we paired 11 affordable California Syrahs with Merlots of the same vintage and price range. Here's the winner of each match. The highest rated winner is listed last. That is, the further you read, the better the wine.

 

The Winners

Rank   Wine
11th - Merlot—Chateau Julien, Monterey County, 2000, $10
10th - Merlot—Beringer Founders' Estate, California, 2000, $12
9th - Syrah—Montevina, Sierra Foothills, 1998, $18
8th - Shiraz (Syrah)—Beringer Founders' Estate, California, 1999 $12
7th - Syrah—R.H. Phillips, Dunnigan Hills, 2000, $10
6th - Syrah—Steele Wines, Clear Lake, 2000, $16
5th - Syrah—Lockwood, Monterey County, 1999, $13
4th - Merlot—Dynamite Vineyards, Carmenet Winery, North Coast, 2000, $17
3rd - Syrah—Hammer Syrah, Martella., California, 2000, $23.50
2nd - Syrah—Sobon Estate, Shenandoah Valley of California, 2001, $15
 

And the best wine of the tasting...

 
1st - Merlot—Cinnabar, Paso Robles, 2001, $19
 

The Answer

Syrah won seven of the eleven matches. Watch out, Merlot!

 
 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 


 

 
 

This page created June 2004

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electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc.

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