If wine is the drink of the gods, then Merlot is the renegade stepbrother who's taken up permanent residence down here. It goes with everything except shoelaces, and it comes in red and white, thus appealing to both sides of the color barrier. Its grapes have an unusually high sugar content, as reflected in the elevated number of dental appointments among its partisans.
So how does Napa Valley's Beringer Vineyards get away with calling its 2005 Merlot a Merlot? After all, this one is ripe like a Chardonnay, fruity like a Riesling and tart like the strongest Colombian pipe tobacco. That's just it, though—the best Merlot is also the most versatile, especially when it comes to food pairing. Veal, fish, pork, calzone, herb cheese, Tex-Mex and Cajun fare, even deer (very tough meat, the one I was eating when I first had this wine): This one holds up to all of 'em, because it features several tastes to match. It's therefore not recommended as a standalone (fool that I am, I tried it by itself over ice; it had a kick like exceptionally dry Champagne, which I can't tolerate under any conditions—and I have a very strong stomach).
Another caveat is that you have to come up with $16.99 and head to any better wine store—once there, you'll probably be able to smell this one before you lay eyes on the bottle. That's the extent of its extremely serious aroma, which will match your satisfaction sip for sip. Very, very good.