I love Cabernet Sauvignon, but I also love Merlot. When I saw a blind tasting comparing the two varietals at a local wine bar that I’d been wanting to visit, I decided to attend.The Vineyard Wine Market located in Smyrna, Georgia. The event was not only well run and a lot of fun, it was truly educational. I highly recommend visiting this venue – whether for a formal event like this one, or spend a few hours sipping on your favorite wine.
We tasted 6 wines, 3 Merlot and 3 Cabernet Sauvignon in random order. We were given the wine details, including tasting notes on one sheet, and an additional sheet to write our impressions and which wine we thought we were tasting.
I am on a constant mission to improve my palate because i am truly awful at identifying flavors and aromas with appropriate vocabulary, let alone identifying the varietal! In fact, we had nice new No. 2 pencils for writing and on my first 2 wines the first thing I thought I smelled was pencil shavings – I’m that impressionable!
My poor palate aside, the two varietals actually share a number of flavors – black cherry, graphite, and cedar for example (ha! pencil shavings/graphite?). A cool climate Merlot can often be mistaken for a Cabernet Sauvignon. Interestingly, you will read below how I seriously waffled on identifying a warmer climate Cab as Merlot, which does not make sense to me.
There were 4 of us at our table, 2 lovely ladies and my husband and myself. With each wine we tasted, Owner, Anthony Alvarez came by each table and gathered our thoughts on what we were thinking on each wine.
I was incorrect on varietal on only two of the three I got wrong, thinking a Merlot was a Cab and visa versa. And, I am going to confess I probably would have missed another had Anthony not provided a clue that swayed us the other way.
The wine I got the cheat on was the Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. I initially thought it was a Cab but I was waffling big time because it was so smooth and gentle. Just as I was about to decide on it being a Merlot, Anthony said something to the effect that a Cab from Paso Robles might reflect a smooth gentle nature due to climate and terroir of the region. I cannot recall exactly what he said, but I am going to ask him about it the next time I see him because I consider Paso Robles to be a hot climate region, which results in bolder, more tannic and higher alcohol wines. But, I figured if the man in charge gives you a clue like that, you should probably run with it and at least that instinct proved to be correct! At any rate, I was so intrigued by this wine that we bought a bottle and I cannot wait to revisit this one!
For the record, the 2 that I misidentified the varietal on were the Whitehall Lane Merlot – I guessed it was the Hanatoro Octave Vineyard Cab; and the ZD Napa Valley Cab, I guessed it was the Whitehall Lane Merlot.
How do you feel about Cabernet and Merlot? Do you think you’d know for sure which is which in a blind tasting?