October 9, 2008

Tomb Raider, Bad Merlot Edition

It was painful just thinking about doing this one. Given our prior experiment, we knew what was in store for us. And we knew it wasn't good.

It was bad, bad Merlot.

What's to get excited about in that? Nothing. That's what. But we at the Lab are dedicated in our mission. So, as with our previous trial, we went down to the local Safeway to find a current release of the 2000 Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot that we discovered while spelunking in an underutilized wet bar.

But we came up empty. Or almost so. Best match we could find was a 2004 Sterling Vintner's Collection Central Coast Merlot. Given how long, we've procrastinated this, we figured close enough would suffice. Besides, Sterling Vineyards was once owned by Coca-Cola, and is now owned by Diageo PLC who also owned Burger King. So we didn't really expect there'd be too much site-specific difference between the wines anyway.

And our expectations were met. They were both generic wines of over-extracted fruit and too much alcohol. Nearly interchangeable. Like two Diet Cokes. The older wine did have a faint aroma of dried, wet cardboard, but they were otherwise indistinguishable.

We hadn't mentioned that we had also found a third bottle under the cupboard. Another Merlot, a 2000 DeLoach Estate Bottled Russian River Valley Merlot. We were hoping to just throw it away without anyone noticing. But given the Sterling Merlot had somehow survived the destruction suffered by the Coppola Sauvingnon Blac in the prior experiment (you really should have a look; this is the third time I've mentioned it), we thought we'd open it, see if it had also dodged the cooked bullet.

No such luck. It was way off, smelled like rancid fruit, rubbing alcohol and... you guessed it, wet cardboard that had dried in the sun.

What began as an experiment in discovering wine flaws, quickly turned into an opportunity for palate training. Set against the backdrop of the obviously cooked DeLoach Merlot, the dry/wet cardboard smell of the Sterling Merlot became really easy to identify. I think everyone here at the Lab will be a little more savvy the next time the sommelier at Burger King tries to pass off a slightly cooked Merlot.

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