Merlot is a popular red wine grape used as varietal wines and in blends. The most widely planted red grape in Bordeaux region of France, Merlot has enjoyed an increase of popularity in many countries in recent years, including the United States, South America, Italy and Australia. Merlot is now considered one of the world’s most planted grape varieties.
Merlot is a close relative to Cabernet Sauvignon. However it has certain distinctions: it is lower in tannins and produces softer wines. It lacks depth of flavor and ageability typical of its relative; this is why it is often blended with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. This contribution of the lacking qualities to Merlot makes a very successful wine product.
Merlot is considered harder to grow than Cabernet Sauvignon due to its susceptibility to fungus and mold diseases as well as proneness to rot. A thin-skinned variety, Merlot ripens earlier in the season than Cabernet Sauvignon and is less hardy. It can be beaten by frost, rain, or early heat waves in spring.
The best quality Merlot grows in rocky, arid ground. As a general rule, it grows best where the climate is both chilly and sunny. Northeast Italy, Bordeaux, France, Washington State, and Chile are some of the parts where the best Merlot comes from.
If we compare the tastes, Merlot is fruitier and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, displaying flavors and aromas of plum, black cherry, currant, cedar, green olive, mint, tobacco and some tea-leaf tones. Merlot is a medium to full bodied wine, having higher sugar levels and alcohol content. However when alcohol reaches 74 degrees F., you can feel an unpleasant sharpness in the taste.
If not blended, Merlot makes a dry wine, which is rich in flavor and with a smooth finish. Merlot is slightly more herbaceous overall. Most Merlots are ready for consumption in 4 to 8 years. Select Merlots tend to have quite long aging potential.
Being quite a heavy wine, Merlot goes perfectly well with heavy meals, such as lamb stew, spaghetti bolognese or beef stroganoff. Merlot requires to be served slightly below room temperature. So it is advisable to cool the bottle for 15-20 minutes in a refrigerator before opening the bottle and enjoying the taste of wine.