Merlot is a succulent, classy, and adaptable red grape variety that is farmed all over the world, although it is best known for its use in the opulent Bordeaux blends. While the qualities vary according to the temperature, soil, and winemaking methods, the grape generally produces dry wines with flavours of red and black fruits, softer tannins, medium to the medium-high body, and medium to medium-high acidity.
Merlot originated from the cross-pollination of the obscure Madeleine Noire des Charentes grape and Cabernet Franc. The grape’s earliest known use dates to Bordeaux in the late 1700s, when a French winemaker successfully blended it and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The rest is history; the Merlot grape, so called because it was thin-skinned and favoured by the local blackbird species known locally as “merlau,” is now a well-known staple of the area.
What is Merlot?
The most renowned regions for growing and producing merlot are Bordeaux and California. Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, it is one of the five major authorised varieties that is most significant in the former.
In Pomerol, the home of Château Pétrus, it reaches the height of its quality and expressiveness. It can command high prices on store shelves, at auctions, and on wine lists in restaurants. Additionally, it thrives in nearby St.-Emilion. It also plays a significant role in the reasonably priced and frequently superb wines referred to as simply Bordeaux Supérieur.
Excellent Merlot grapes are also cultivated in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, and they are regularly utilized to add richness and silkiness to red wines with a Cabernet Sauvignon base. Of course, they are also capable of making good wines on their own; in fact, outstanding Merlot-based wines are widely available throughout California.
World-class Merlot may also be found in Tuscany, where the best wines, whether they are 100% Merlot or a component of a mix, are Massetto, Ornellaia, Antinori’s Il Bruciato, and Le Macchiole’s Messorio. It is also grown in Washington State, Chile, Argentina, McLaren Vale, and the Barossa Valley in Australia.
What Does Merlot Taste Like?
Merlot wines typically have a range of flavors that can vary depending on factors such as the region, climate, winemaking techniques, and age of the wine. Here are some common flavour characteristics associated with it:
- Fruit Flavors: It often exhibits flavors of ripe, dark fruits such as plum, black cherry, blackberry, and blueberry. These fruity notes can be both juicy and luscious, providing a pleasant sweetness to the wine.
- Earthy and Herbal Notes: Merlot can also display earthy and herbal undertones. This can include hints of tobacco, cedar, dried herbs, and sometimes a touch of eucalyptus. These elements add complexity to the wine and contribute to its overall flavor profile.
- Chocolate and Mocha: They may have flavors reminiscent of dark chocolate, cocoa, or mocha. These notes can provide richness and depth, adding to the wine’s overall character.
- Soft Tannins: It is known for its softer tannins compared to some other red grape varieties. Tannins contribute to the structure and texture of the wine, and in the case of Merlot, they are often smooth and velvety, enhancing the wine’s overall drinkability.
- Oak Influence: Merlot wines are often aged in oak barrels, which can impart additional flavors. Depending on the winemaking style, you may detect hints of vanilla, caramel, or toasty oak in some Merlot wines.
It’s important to note that it can exhibit a wide range of flavour profiles depending on the specific wine and the region it comes from. Additionally, younger Merlots may emphasize primary fruit flavors, while older vintages can develop more complexity and secondary flavors over time.
Why Should You Drink Merlot Wine?
There are several reasons why you might consider drinking it:
- Approachability: It is often praised for its approachable and easy-drinking nature. It typically has smooth tannins and a medium body, making it a wine that can be enjoyed by a wide range of palates, including both casual wine drinkers and enthusiasts.
- Versatility: Merlot is a versatile wine that pairs well with various foods. Its moderate tannins and fruit-forward flavours make it a good match for a range of dishes. It can complement red meats like beef, lamb, and game, as well as roasted poultry, pasta dishes, and even certain types of cheese.
- Fruitiness: Merlot wines often exhibit flavors of ripe, dark fruits such as plum, black cherry, and blackberry. These fruit-forward characteristics can be appealing to those who enjoy wines with rich, fruity flavors.
- Soft Tannins: Merlot is known for having softer tannins compared to some other red grape varieties. This can make it more approachable and smoother on the palate, particularly for those who prefer wines with less astringency or bitterness.
- Ageing Potential: While Merlot is often enjoyed young and fresh, high-quality Merlot wines can also have aging potential. With proper cellaring, certain Merlot wines can develop more complexity, tertiary flavors, and additional nuances over time, offering a different drinking experience.
- Availability: It is one of the most widely planted red grape varieties, meaning it is often readily available and can be found in many wine regions around the world. This accessibility makes it easy to find and explore different styles and expressions of Merlot.
What Can We Pair With Merlot Wine?
Merlot is a versatile red wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. Here are some popular food pairings that complement the flavours of Merlot:
- Red Meats: Merlot’s medium body and fruit-forward flavors make it a great match for red meats such as beef, lamb, venison, and pork. Grilled steaks, roasted lamb, or braised short ribs can all be excellent choices.
- Poultry: Merlot can also pair nicely with roasted or grilled poultry, including chicken and turkey. Consider dishes like roasted chicken with herbs, duck breast, or turkey with savory accompaniments.
- Pasta and Tomato-Based Sauces: Merlot’s fruitiness and acidity make it a good match for pasta dishes with tomato-based sauces. Whether it’s a classic spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna, or penne arrabbiata, Merlot can complement the richness of the sauce.
- Mushrooms: The earthy flavors in Merlot can harmonize well with dishes that feature mushrooms. Try pairing it with mushroom risotto, grilled portobello mushrooms, or a mushroom-based sauce.
- Cheese: Merlot pairs nicely with a variety of cheeses. Opt for medium-bodied and semi-hard cheeses like Gouda, Cheddar, Manchego, or Edam. Blue cheeses with milder flavors, such as Cambozola or Gorgonzola dolce, can also be a good match.
- Dark Chocolate: If you’re looking for a wine to pair with dessert, Merlot can complement dark chocolate. The wine’s fruitiness can contrast with the bitterness of the chocolate, creating a pleasant balance.
Is Merlot dry or sweet?
Merlot is produced in a dry manner. Keep in mind that, due to the presence of sugar, the flavors of ripe fruit, such as cherries and plums, are not the same as those of sweetness.
A dry wine is one in which the sugar from the grape must is converted to alcohol by yeast after the grapes are crushed. A fully dry wine results when all, or almost all, of the sugar, has been transformed.
A small amount of sugar known as residual sugar occasionally remains. This could be done to give the wine a hint of richness and sweetness, or it could be a sign that the yeast didn’t complete the fermentation. However, a few grams of RS per liter is still regarded as a dry wine.
What is Merlot’s calorie and carb count?
Most merlots are dry. Of course, low-sugar wine doesn’t necessarily mean low-calorie wine. It has calories and alcohol. Merlot typically contains 625 calories in a 750ml bottle or around 125 calories per 5-ounce portion.
The wine will include modest amounts of carbohydrates or carbs if it has a trace of residual sugar. The average carbohydrate content of dry wines is 4 grams.
What Distinguishes Cabernet Sauvignon from Merlot?
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are separate grapes, so it can be difficult to distinguish them in blind tastings, especially when grown in cooler climates. as Cabernet Franc, a member of the same grape family, is their common progenitor. Wines from this family contain pyrazines, fragrant organic chemical components that produce bell pepper, and herbal flavors that are more apparent in cooler climes.
Additionally, because cooler places like its native Bordeaux have more robust tannins, more structure, and savory flavors, Merlot is easier to mistake for Cabernet Sauvignon in these areas. Because of their matching textures, herbal undertones, and tannin structures, Merlot and Cabernet are widely used as blending partners in red Bordeaux wine.
Wine of the Merlot variety has gained popularity in the US. It is typically made from Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir grapes, which are cultivated in and around their native France and Italy.
Merlot wines often appeal to wine experts because of their rich flavour and undertones of cherry, vanilla, and black currant. Give it a try if you’re searching for a simple way to surprise your visitors or want something fresh on the table this weekend. It goes great with a variety of cuisines, from meats to desserts.