‘Total Wine & More’ Merlot Value Challenge Kick-Off!

Merlot Challengers

Read this post to:

  • Learn a little bit about Merlot
  • See what I learned about shopping for value Merlot at Total Wine & More (including some surprises!)
  • Find out which specific bottles will be competing in the Merlot Value Challenge

Merlot Overview

Poor ole’ Merlot…  No other grape in the world seems to have quite so large a gap between its true greatness and its maligned reputation.  Merlot is a red Bordeaux variety featuring prominently in many of the greatest and most expensive wines on the planet. Appearing in renowned wines like Petrus, Ornellaia, and Duckhorn, its ability to craft amazing wines in undeniable.

merlot sign
Courtesy: Masterwines.com

Unfortunately, decades of cheap jug Merlot in the stores, combined with bad press in the movie Sideways, has really dinged Merlot’s reputation.  Bad for Merlot, but potentially good for us!  I would argue that this “mixed” reputation for Merlot keeps prices low and offers some really great values.  Does this mean that we can find some great Merlot around $10?  I’m not sure, but we’re going to find out!

(BTW…. If you’d like to learn more about Merlot, I invite you to visit the great WineFolly blog: http://winefolly.com/tutorial/merlot-wine-taste-and-food-pairing/)

Merlot Link to Wine Folly

How I picked this month’s challengers

I totally geeked out on the shopping this month and made a spreadsheet to help me evaluate all 60 bottles of value-priced Merlot at Total Wine & More.

Merlot Spreadsheet

If you’re interested in the details of that analysis, scroll to the very bottom of this post.  Skipping the details, here’s the really interesting stuff I learned…

  • If you’re looking for the best deal, it’s probably best to buy something around 7 or $8. The 5 wines with the best QPR (Quality Price Ratio) were all priced in the $7-$8 range.  Although quality does increase a little bit with price, the prices increase much faster than the scores.

    QPR by Price
    Even when prices increase by 50%, scores only increased by 5%.
  • It doesn’t look like Winery Direct is advantageous in any way.  Don’t let it sway your buying decision. On average, the Winery Direct bottles of Merlot (the ones that Total Wine buys straight from the winery instead of through a distributor) do not rate as well as the bottles that are not Winery Direct.  Winery Direct wines have a LOWER average Vivino score at 3.27 (versus 3.52 for the non-Direct) and a LOWER QPR at 0.34 (versus 0.37 for the non-Direct.)
  • Most popular doesn’t necessarily mean best.The most popular wines (at least at Total Wine) fell somewhere in the middle of the QPR spectrum.  Radius has a QPR of 0.33 and 14 Hands has a QPR of 0.41.
  • If you’re looking for the highest quality wines in this price range, it really is better to buy an $11 bottle than an $8 bottle.The best scoring wines all fell toward the top of our price range.  The top 8 bottles by Vivino score are all priced near or above $11.

So, armed with my data, I headed to Total Wine and picked up 12 bottles of Merlot. I picked most of the bottles based on QPR but also made sure to include the most popular bottles and the highest scoring bottles.  You can see the details on each wine below.  Follow the blog to see all of our tasting notes and rankings throughout the month!

The Challengers

14 Hands Merlot14 Hands Merlot 2014 – Horse Heaven Hills, Washington –  $8.97 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.7 out of 5

QPR = 0.41

Purchased because of it had one of the highest Vivino scores and was listed as “Most Popular” by Total Wine.

https://www.14hands.com/

_____________________________________________

Benziger MerlotBenziger Family Winery Merlot 2014 – Sonoma, California – $10.99 @ TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.9 out of 5

QPR = 0.35

Purchased because of its Vivino score of 3.9 was the highest of all wines in this price range.

https://www.benziger.com/



Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells MerlotChateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2014 – Columbia Valley, Washington –  $10.97 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.7 out of 5

QPR = 0.34

Purchased because of its high score.

https://www.ste-michelle.com/

_____________________________________________

Clos du Bois MerlotClos du Bois Merlot 2015 – California –  $7.47 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.5 out of 5

QPR = 0.47

Purchased because of its high QPR.

https://www.closdubois.com/

_____________________________________________

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Merlot

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2014 – Columbia Valley, Washington –  $7.47 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.5 out of 5

QPR = 0.47

Purchased because of its high QPR.

https://www.columbiacrest.com/

_____________________________________________

 Columbia Crest Two Vines Merlot

Two Vines Merlot/Cabernet 2014 – Columbia Valley, Washington –  $7.27 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.5 out of 5

QPR = 0.48

Purchased because of its high QPR.

https://www.twovines.com/

_____________________________________________

Casillero del Diablo Merlot

Concha y Toro, Casillero del Diablo Merlot Reserva 2015 – Central Valley, Chile –  $7.29 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3. out of 5

QPR = 0.51

Purchased because of its high QPR.

http://www.conchaytoro.com/

_____________________________________________

Ecco Domani Merlot

Ecco Domani Merlot 2015 – Sicilia, Italy –  $7.29 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.5 out of 5

QPR = 0.48

Purchased because of its high QPR.

http://www.eccodomani.com/

_____________________________________________

Menage a Trois Merlot

Menage e Trois Merlot 2015 – California –  $8.49 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.7 out of 5

QPR = 0.44

Purchased because of its high QPR.

http://www.menageatroiswines.com/

_____________________________________________

Coppola Blue Diamond Merlot

Francis Ford Coppola Blue Diamond Merlot 2015 –  California –  $11.97 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.7 out of 5

QPR = 0.31

Purchased because of its high Vivino score.

https://www.francisfordcoppolawinery.com/

_____________________________________________

Radius Merlot

Radius Merlot 2014 – Columbia Valley, Washington –  $10.49 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.5 out of 5

QPR = 0.33

Purchased because of it was listed as “Most Popular” on Total Wine.

http://www.preceptwine.com/our-wines/radius/merlot/

_____________________________________________

Rex Goliath Merlot

Rex Goliath Merlot NV – California –  $4.99 at TotalWine

Vivino Score= 3.2 out of 5

QPR = 0.64

Purchased because of it’s super cheap and I as actually pleased with the Rex Goliath Pinot Noir last month, so I wanted to give this a try.

http://www.rexgoliath.com/

_____________________________________________

Details on my shopping analysis

I started with all of the Merlot available at Total Wine & More with prices between $7 and $12.  There’s 60 of them with prices from $7.29 to $11.99.  Then I pulled Vivino scores for all 60 wines.  The scores ranged from 2.7 on the low end (Firebrand Merlot) to 3.9 on the high end (Benzinger Merlot Sonoma).  Unfortunately, neither price nor score is a good indicator of “value” by itself so I divided the score by the price to get a QPR (Quality Price Ratio).  That ratio ranged from 0.27 on the low end to 0.51 on the high end.  Lastly, I took into consideration which wines are “Most Popular” and “Winery Direct” at Total Wine.

 

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