Merlot Wines ~ The Lost Stepchild of the Wine World!
Ahh, Merlot wines, the “lost stepchild” of the wine world. A few years ago in 2004, the movie Sideways made an impact on the wine industry by edging out one of my favorite wines, Merlot, in favor of the search through California for Pinot Noir.
I started my adventure in a “Wine Life” with a great Merlot in 1982. I still remember it to this day, how lovely it was, its fruit forward taste, and how easy it was to drink and enjoy.
About Merlot Wines & Grape
Merlot is a dark-skinned grape that wine makers use both as a blending grape and a stand-alone wine varietal. Merlot grows most famously in Bordeaux, France, and it is by far the most-planted variety of that famous region. In fact, the variety is so popular all over the country, France grows more than two thirds of the world’s Merlot. Wow!
In general, Merlot grapes offer a supple, fruity taste and lack astringent tannins.
Merlot buds earlier and ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is susceptible to shatter in bad weather during flowering if there is too much rain or moisture. Merlot grapes tend to be large and hang in loose bunches. These grapes tend to have higher sugar than Cabernet Sauvignon, along with less tannin and lower malic acid levels.
This is what makes Merlot wines a pleasure to enjoy, giving the wine a velvety mouthfeel. I simply adore this wine.
Because Merlot grapes are grown all over the world, can put out large crops, and still produce delicious wines, many producers use the variety to produce inexpensive, innocuous wines. This Varietal Focus concentrates on what makes Merlot wines special: well-made, challenging wines that offer bold fruit character, lush mouth feel and good tannic structure.
Merlot can set large crops, especially after a good flowering season. Wine makers have found that reducing the crop size seems to affect quality in a good way. Merlot’s vines thrive in well-drained soil. Consequently, Merlot is notorious for approaching full ripeness and then stalling in sugar production, only to quickly over-ripen in the face of warm weather.
Merlot Winemaking Styles
The New World style of wine making brings out ripeness, inky color, full body and lush tannins in Merlot wines. These flavor profiles lean toward plum and blackberry, making Merlot wines a common choice for chocolate or red meat pairings. A more traditional style involves picking at slightly lower sugar levels, in an attempt to maintain acidity. The resulting Merlot wine is medium bodied, with lower alcohol and more red fruit character like raspberries.
In Bordeaux, wine makers use Merlot primarily as a blending grape. It seems like this is because Merlot lends suppleness, ripe fruit character and a more generous mouth feel than the more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot usually makes up less than 25 percent of a blended wine. However, on the right bank in St. Emilion and Pomerol, Merlot makes up the majority of the blend. Cabernet Franc is usually the other main player in these blends. Merlot is also grown in Provence, the Loire Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Napa Valley has long been renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, but it has produced wonderful Merlot wines for decades. Legendary PeJu Vineyard Merlot. Other wineries, like Ty Caton who helped make Merlot legendary, gave us his Single Vineyards Merlot. Steve Burgess added his family’s Triere Estate Vineyard Merlot. We enjoy many other Merlot wines, which you can browse here. We have even found Merlot to pair with great fun foods like Mac and Cheese, pepperoni pizza and Meatloaf stuffed with Ricotta. Yum!
Try our exclusive Late Harvest Merlot from Hungary!
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