It's been several vintages now since Merlot got the bum rap in the
movie "Sideways". Such a silly movie that crashed Merlot and started
the craze for Pinot Noir.
So, why did Merlot get beat up so much? Merlot is the second most
planted grape varietal in the world. There was just too much juice.
Wine makers seemed to just devote their efforts on cabs and not put too
much effort into making a great Merlot. So, a lot of the wines
were thin and boring.
Merlot is a dark blue varietal that has been made by itself and has
been used as a blending grape for generations. It is softer and fresher
and slightly more herbaceous than its cousin Cabernet. Merlot is one of
the primary grapes used in Bordeaux and is the most planted grape in
that region. Two styles
exist, the first being late harvesting to gain
ripeness, with velvety tannins and earlier harvested for a medium
bodied wine with fresh fruit flavors.
In France, Merlot is the most planted grape varietal. Besides Bordeaux,
it is also grown in the Loire and in the south. It's main role is as a
blending grape to add body and softness. One of the most famous and
rare wines of the world Chateau Petrus is almost 100% Merlot. This wine
typically sells for about $1500 at release and is one of the most
sought after wines at auction.
In California, winemakers have become more serious about their Merlots.
I find myself trying as many new Merlots as possible. I almost call it
a baby brother to the heavier more tannic Cabernet. I find the tasting
profile similar to cabs but with more fruit notes that include
blackberries, boysenberries and plums.
The Merlots coming from Washington and northern Italy are also very
good and seem to be a little softer and fruitier than their California
counter part. Merlot from those regions tend to have a little higher
acidity because of the cooler climates.
So, next time you are out there looking for a good wine step passed
those Cabs and pick up a Merlot. I'm sure you will be happy you did.
The diversity of Merlot allows it to be paired with a wide variety of
food dishes. Merlots will go well with any type of food that you would
traditionally serve a cab with. Lighter foods such as salmon or
mushroom based dishes will work well also.
Questions or comments?
Reach me at :
last month's "Let's Talk Wine" article by Eric
Ventura Wine Bars
County Wine Trail
Return to Home