Cheap wine that doesn't suck rarely is Merlot. On the Universal Suckitude Scale, cheap Merlot ranks slightly higher than dogshit omelets and just below seeing Kirstie Alley naked.
Well, Merlot naturally runs to the soft and flabby side -- sort of like Rex Ryan without the personality -- which is why it's most often used to tame the aggressive acid and tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon or, conversely, is blended with a little Cabernet to give it some of what cork dorks like to call "structure."
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Then, of course, there's marketing. California vintners in particular saw Merlot as the next big White Zinfandel, a simple, sweet, and fruity wine that would appeal to 'fraidy palate wine drinkers who otherwise would be swilling Diet Pepsi.
Naturally, then, you might expect Estancia's 2007 Central Coast Merlot to suck or at least to pucker up really, really hard. You would, however, be wrong. This $12 product from California's cooler climate Central Coast actually has some decent structure, a bit of complexity, and fruit that doesn't taste like you should be drinking it with your corn flakes for breakfast.
There are some cherries and blueberries in the nose, with a little hint of anise and almost diesely funk. On the palate, it displays tangy blueberry and black cherry fruit, with a hint of that anise again. It's still accessible and easy-to-like, but it's got some gonads too. And it really is better than seeing Kirstie Alley naked.