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Ah, Merlot. . . As one of the primary grapes from France's Bordeaux wine region, this thin-skinned, blue-colored grape transforms into one of the most versatile and popular red wines on the market. Only Cabernet Sauvignon boasts more vines planted — not that it's a race or anything.
Merlot-based wines were first mentioned in 1784 when a Bordeaux official claimed that the wine was among the finest of its time, and we're inclined to agree. Despite being a first-class wine today, winemakers in the late 1700s considered Merlot a "secondary" grape best suited for blending instead of a standalone variety. Of course, all this changed as Merlot grew in popularity, which is great news. I mean, can you imagine a world where Merlot is considered subpar? We sure can't!
What Are the Characteristics of Merlot wine?
Generally speaking, Merlot based wines tend to be extremely smooth and silky, thanks to the grape's naturally low tannins and fruit-forward character. Because of Merlot's dark blue hue, wines tend to be rather pigmented in the glass, creating a soft, fleshy wine full of juicy character.
Merlot is vinified both varietally (on its own), as well as used in blends, depending on where in the world it is grown. The grape gets its name from the French word for blackbird, a reference to both the color of the grapes' skins, as well as the birds that tend to swoop down and feast on it.
Merlot is one of the most widely cultivated varieties on the planet, thanks to its ability to adapt to many different climates. The wines are generally crowd pleasers, due to their luscious mouthfeel and easy-drinking demeanor. When grown in warmer climates, Merlot tends to create purple hued wines high in alcohol, noted with flavors of velvety blackberries, cassis, and plums. In cooler climate regions, Merlot based wines tend to show higher acid and lower alcohol, giving way to raspberry and strawberry flavors, sometimes noted with a slight vegetal greenness.
Is Merlot Sweet or Dry?
For a wine to be considered sweet, there must a presence of residual sugar within the juice. Most Merlot is usually vinified dry, however, it is possible for Merlot to be vinified into a sweet dessert wine. However, it is important to note that due to Merlot's smooth and silky flavor profile, the wine's 'fruit-forwardness'-- a much more accurate term to use-- can often be mistaken for sweetness. Aging in new American oak, which Merlot often undergoes, can also create a 'sweet' sensation on the palate, despite the wine being vinified dry.
Differences Between Merlot Wine and Cabernet Sauvignon:
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are often compared given the fact they're the two most popular red wines in the world. Both come from the Bordeaux region and pair nicely with food, especially meat, but each boasts its own characteristics.
Historically, grapes grown on the left bank of the river were Cabernet, because growers felt the soil was better suited to the grape variety. As Cabernet became the dominant grape in the Bordeaux region, the "right bank" emerged as the place to grow Merlot. Today, you can walk into any wine shop and ask for left or right bank Bordeaux wines. Trust us — they'll know what you mean.
Cabernet Sauvignon is older with more aggressive tannins. When you taste it, the wine gives your mouth a drying sensation that's best paired with rich dishes. Merlot, on the other hand, is easy to drink thanks to its softer flavors. For someone new to wine tasting, Merlot is a good option.
Popular Regions for Merlot:
Merlot is grown globally across a plethora of wine producing regions, from Old World to New World. However, the grape's most popular growing regions include the United States, specifically California, Washington State, and New York, Italy, Chile, and of course, the grape's mother country, France, where the grape plays a key role in the Right Bank red blends of Bordeaux.
What foods pair well with Merlot Wine?
Since Merlot is a versatile wine, you can pair it with almost anything at the lunch or dinner table. Its rich flavors and smooth textures are perfectly suited to meats and stewed dishes, particularly pork, chicken, lamb and mushrooms. Use Merlot to add earthy flavors to fish dishes or to tie together a cheese plate. You can also pair Merlot with chocolate. Or pizza. No judgments here!
So what are you waiting for? Buy merlot wine online through Drizly at a great price and have it delivered directly to your door. Cheers.