Merlot is the second most widely planted grape in the world. It can produce both light to medium body wines with red fruit and herbaceous flavors, as well as medium to full body wines, velvety tannins, with pronounced black fruit flavors and chocolate notes. You can find Merlot as a single varietal or blended with other grapes. The finest bottles are from Bordeaux in France.
It grows best in moderate to warm climates where grapes can ripen fully. The climate affects its taste profile. Green bell pepper aroma is typical of the cool climate. In warm climates, black fruit flavors become cooked in character.
Have you ever found yourself staring at many Merlot bottles wondering which one you would like best? Keep reading and you’ll find the answer and much more!
I’ve organized the content below in small sections to make it easy to read. I must confess I’m quite happy with the research and work done. As always wine tasting was my favorite part!😋
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Merlot Taste Profile
These are some of the most common aromas and flavors of Merlot.
Merlot Food Pairing
These are some food pairing suggestions for Merlot.
Serve and Store Merlot
Regions and winemaking techniques influence Merlot taste profiles. Here is a quick overview of the main regions and what to expect:
- New World: The tendency is to overripe the grapes to get a fuller body, high alcohol, softer tannins, and intense black fruit flavors.
- Old World: The tendency is to harvest earlier to get a medium body, higher acidity, moderate alcohol, and red fruit and herbaceous flavors.
Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is usually blended with other grapes to soften their taste profile and structure. Bordeaux wines are the most famous blend.
A little bit of Merlot history
The first Merlot trace we have is from the 1780s in the Bordeaux region in France. It appears it was used as a blend for a local Bordeaux production. By the 19th century, it became very popular in France, Italy, and Switzerland. As Bordeaux became a popular wine, Merlot did too.
In the US it has become an important grape across California, Washington State, and New York. Merlot is today the second most widely planted grape in the world.
What does Merlot mean?
The common assumption, based on the grape color, is that “Merlot” is the diminutive of “merle”, i.e. the French name for the blackbird.
Where does Merlot grow best?
Merlot is planted all over the world given its versatility. Merlot gives it best in moderate to warm climates. Climates will have a direct effect on the Merlot taste profile. Here is a quick overview:
- Cool Climates – Bordeaux: ruby color, light-medium body, higher acidity, red fruit (raspberry, cherry) flavors with tertiary notes of spice, leather, coffee, and licorice.
- Warm Climates – California: deep ruby color, medium-full body, pronounced black fruit (blackberry, blueberry, plum) flavors, velvety tannins with tertiary notes of vanilla, coconut, and smoke.
When is the perfect time to drink Merlot?
Given its versatility, every occasion is a good occasion for a Merlot as long as your event is not 100% fish-based. Even during summertime, if you go for the lighter Merlot version, it’s still very enjoyable and a good alternative to Pinot Noir.
Some curiosities about Merlot
- There is an International Merlot day and it’s the 7th November.
- One of the most famous Merlot blend is Bordeaux wine. Merlot is part of the so called six “Bordeaux Varietals”. These are: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot .
- Have you ever heard of “Super Tuscan” wines? Well, this is yet another famous Cabernet Sauvignon blend with Merlot and Syrah/Shiraz. “Super Tuscan” is the name used to differentiate them from the other Tuscan wine made with indigenous grapes, like Chianti.
- A blind taste with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon will be a tricky one! They are quite similar. A quick hint is to look for fewer tannins and chocolate notes, and most of the time you’ve got a Merlot!
- Have you ever seen the movie Sideways ? Well, rumors are that Merlot sales dropped by 2% because of the bad publicity in the movie.
What’s Merlot's typical price range?
There’s a Merlot for every pocket. Broadly speaking this what you can expect by price range:
- $15-$30: Good entry-level Merlot between $15-$30 from Italy, France, Chile, California.
- $30-$100: great bottles from California, Washington, France, and Italy.
- $100+: outstanding bottles from Italy and France. Petrus is probably the most famous example of luxury Merlot wine with a price in the thousands.