Friday, February 12, 2010

As reported by Wine & Spirits Daily


Although merlot sometimes gets a bad rap, a new study by Nielsen and commissioned by Blackstone Winery found that merlot "has the single largest consumer base of any varietal wine in the U.S. and, of the major wine varietals, is the one most closely associated with high quality at an affordable price." Interesting. Conventional wisdom tells us that merlot took a big hit from Sideways, while pinot noir benefited. Not so says Nielsen. "Contrary to what people may think, Merlot never died," says Danny Brager, Nielsen vp of beverage alcohol. Perhaps that's because the majority of loyal merlot drinkers never saw Sideways. Forty-five percent of participants in Nielsen's survey of merlot drinkers never saw the movie, and 93% of those that saw the movie say it had no effect on their opinion of merlot. Since Sideways, merlot dollar sales and volume have grown steadily and the number of US households purchasing merlot more than doubles those purchasing pinot noir. This isn't surprising since pinot noir's growth comes off a much lower base than merlot.

More American households purchase merlot than any other wine variety, red or white. The varietal is reportedly loved for its taste, value and approachability, and also has the highest repeat purchase rate of any wine variety in the U.S. A majority of 90% of respondents say "taste" is the most important factor in their wine-buying decisions, with "good value" ranking second. Not surprisingly, 80% of respondents consider merlot "a good everyday and food wine," while roughly 70% find merlot to be "a good value" (rising to "great" when priced under $12 per bottle), "a good wine to drink at home," and "approachable and reliable."

Although merlot is the third most popular varietal after chardonnay and cabernet, it has a higher household penetration than any other wine variety, with 9.5% of U.S. households purchasing at least one bottle of merlot in 2008 compared to 9.3% for chardonnay and 8.8% for cabernet sauvignon. Merlot also boasts the highest repeat purchase rate of any variety, with 49% of merlot consumers making multiple purchases year over year.

Gary Sitton, winemaker for Blackstone Winery said: "There's no question there was some mediocre Merlot in the market earlier this decade as a result of growers planting too much in ill-advised areas. But much of that acreage has been pulled out, and the quality of California Merlot has greatly improved - supply and demand have come back into balance."

Chateau Julien Wine Estate is known for its' outstanding Merlot.

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