Because of the interest in our posts: The BEST cheap Chardonnay purchased from Walmart and The Best Chardonnay Under $3.00: A Comparison Tasting we couldn’t resist doing a comparison tasting of Walmart’s cheap Merlot varietal. We purchased the five cheapest bottles of Merlot that our local Kernersville, North Carolina Walmart had on their shelves…and we assume these same brands would be found on the shelves of most Walmart stores across the country. These included Belle $4.76 (from France), Beringer $4.98, Rex-Goliath $4.98 and Barefoot $5.98 (from California) and Yellow Tail $5.48 (from Australia).All five wines were opened more than one hour before drinking…the Belle and Beringer had reconstructed corks while the others all had plastic corks. They were all surprisingly similar with their clear, pale ruby color, were all non-vintage, sweet, had no tannins, no finish or were nothing like “real” (more expensive) Merlot, but that’s where the similarities ended. They were all 13.5% alcohol except the Barefoot at 13% and the Bell at 12.5%.
Belle: Imported by L & L Imports located in Bentonville, Arkansas, a supplier that provides a broad line of wines to Walmart. The Belle Merlot had quite strong vegetative aromas that reminded us of hay that had been wet and a dried musty bouquet of flowers. There were clearly identifiable flavors of plum and blackberry that continued into what could have been possibly called a finish. This was the least sweet of the five wines and the only one with discernible tastes.
Beringer: There were perceptible dusty dark fruit flavors, but the taste should be called “neutral” at best. Overall it was slightly sweet generic red wine that was quite drinkable if you like sweet red wine.
Rex-Goliath: Hints of barnyard aroma and a light raspberry flavor, but not as smooth as either the Belle or the Beringer and a tad sweeter.
Yellow Tail: Little or no aroma, but it had a distinct sharpness to the smell and there was a chemical (almost vinegar) taste. The Yellow Tail was very sweet and we found it unpleasant to drink.
Barefoot: No aroma but a light tar flavor. It was the sweetest of all five wines and for our palates was very unpleasant.
When we finished the tasting we tried a “centering”experiment with Black Box Merlot (a box wine that is priced about the same as these bottles) see our post Blind Tasting Two Box Wines: Black Box Merlot and Peter Vella Merlot. We hate to say it but the Black Box was head and shoulders above all but the Belle. It had aroma, flavor and was not the same level of sweetness, but still didn’t have a finish.
In the end we mixed all but the Belle with orange juice and added a large sprig of fresh spearmint (to give it a bouquet) and made sangria out of the wines. All of them worked well for sangria, but in the end it was the Belle (from France) that was the winner by leaps and bounds, followed a ways back by the Beringer. We would steer clear of the Yellow Tail or Barefoot. So our recommendation would be if your buying $5 Merlot from Walmart grab the Belle Merlot and you won’t go wrong.
Here’s another tip about Walmart wines paired with spicy hot foods…try the Lucky Duck Riesling!!! (See our post Lucky Duck Riesling/Rivaner, Germany.)