Funny thing about Merlot; even after being looked down on by critics and so famously bad-mouthed in the movie Sideways, the grape is still the best selling piece of fruit on the vine.
The reason is threefold: its name is easy to pronounce, there's plenty of variety because it's grown just about everywhere there's dirt and it's a pretty forgiving berry, which makes it hard for winemakers to screw up the juicy, easy-drinking personality that has become its hallmark.
The grape's also a no-brain fallback position when you need an all-purpose food wine. Whether it's pasta with a tomato-based sauce, pork chops, poultry, anything beefy or a simple takeout pizza - merlot's your match.
Back to Sideways, though California's reputation as a mass producer of Merlot led to the on-screen backlash, its winemakers know how to bottle good juice at a decent price. While The Little Black Dress 2008 Merlot ($12.99 - $14.99) may be playing up to the growing legions of female wine drinkers with its fashion-forward name, it delivers plenty of manly cherry berry flavours.
The same goes for McWilliam's 2007 Hanwood Estate Merlot ($14.95 - $16.99) from Down Under. It nicely pairs round wood with dense black fruit.
Prices reflect the range across the country. Products may not be available in every province.