A Tasting Review of Barefoot Merlot Wine

Updated October 25, 2019
Wine pour with cheese and grapes

While it's sometimes fun to thoughtfully ponder wine selections and show off your knowledge of grapes and vintages, other times you want to just grab a bottle of wine you know and love, like Barefoot Merlot Wine. One of the least pretentious labels available, Barefoot Merlot is consistent in taste and price.

The Barefoot Wine Story

If you're hoping for a story of generations of grape growers perfecting a variety of vintages over many decades, toiling over acres of vines year after year, Barefoot Cellars is not the tale for you. The original Barefoot wine had humble beginnings in the 60s as a "garage wine," an affectionate term for wines made in the basements, kitchens, and actual garages of homes. Friends and family mostly enjoyed it until 1986 when Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan joined Randy Arnold, the original Barefoot winemaker, and commercially produced a tasty and inexpensive wine that could give pleasure to both novice and experienced wine drinkers.

To promote their wine and build good will, the trio affiliated themselves with various charities and non-profits over the next 20 years, pouring their selections at fundraisers and benefits. In 2006, Barefoot Cellars, located in Napa, California, became a sponsor of the Association of Volleyball Professions (AVP) Beach Volleyball, a perfect tie-in with their name. Shortly thereafter, they partnered with the Surfrider foundation to establish the Barefoot Beach Rescue Project, an undertaking dedicated to rid beaches of trash and debris to make them "Barefoot friendly" for all.

Barefoot Merlot Wine

One reason Barefoot Merlot Wine, along with the winery's other selections, is so affordable is that it is non-vintage, which means it contains juice from grapes harvested over a period of years instead of just one. Non-vintage wine does not have a year on its labels. Some wine aficionados shun non-vintage wines as inferior, while more open-minded and frugal drinkers hail the non-vintage process as innovative and cost-effective, and like that they can count on these types of wine for consistency.

Reviews of Barefoot Merlot

Despite this dubious distinction, Barefoot's Merlots are generally well received and appreciated. They have won numerous awards, including the Best Buy award from the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, an honor based on unbiased online consumer reviews. Barefoot Merlots also garnered a Double Gold Medal at the 2007 International Eastern Wine Competition in Watkins Glen, New York. Wine drinkers on TotalWine give it 4 out of 5 stars for reviews, which is an excellent rating for a $5 Merlot.

The Pour

When the Merlot is poured into a wine glass, there are no visible bubbles on the top or sides of the liquid. The wine has a deep, rich ruby color and quickly forms legs when swirled.

Taste and Nose

Although the label promises flavors of chocolate, boysenberry, anise, licorice and a hint of tannins, many tasters found the Merlot to have a predominance of berry tastes, with shades of floral or oak and minimal tannins. The nose, however, was generally reviewed as having subtle hints of chocolate and pepper mixed with blackberry aromas.

Feel and Finish

While an occasional review found the Merlot to be a little bitter, most Barefoot Merlot drinkers praised its silky feel in the mouth and were pleased with the clean, crisp fruity finish of the wine.

Pricing and Availability

Barefoot Cellar wines are inevitably included on the "best cheap wine" lists, since they rarely cost more than $10 a bottle and are regularly on sale for around $5 a bottle. They are widely available at large and small grocery stores and retail beverage distributors.

Going Barefoot

Since Barefoot wines are so affordable, pick up one of their Merlots to go with your next pizza, or pair it with a plate of meatballs and pasta. You can also try it in sangria, and it's a great red wine for cooking. Whether or not you become a diehard fan and decide to go Barefoot more often, your investment will be minimal.

A Tasting Review of Barefoot Merlot Wine