Merlot is a black grape variety originating from Southwest France. Today, it is planted all across the world and produced as both a single varietal and blending partner. Known for its medium-full body, Merlot can take on a range of characteristics from light and fruity, to aged and complex. It expresses both red and black fruit notes, and even herbaceous flavors (think green bell pepper) in its youth.
When grown in warm or hot climates, Merlot can take on cooked or baked fruit flavors of plum, cherry and blackberry. Barrel-aged expressions can even have hints of chocolate and sweet spicy notes pulled from the oak. Premium examples of Merlot have the potential to age for many years in the bottle, developing tertiary flavors of dried fruit, mushrooms, earth and tobacco.
Merlot is the most planted variety in Bordeaux and the dominant grape in its Right Bank blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. In the famous AOCs of Pomerol and Saint Émilion, Merlot is rich, spicy and portrays deep black fruit flavors with soft tannins. In other parts of Bordeaux, Merlot is blended with the same partners, but as the second leading grape behind Cabernet Sauvignon.
Around the World
This grape is grown across the world and produced as both a single varietal and blending partner. In the U.S., Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and/or Zinfandel to create “Red Blends.” In Napa Valley and Sonoma, Merlot can be full-bodied, ripe, and higher in alcohol when compared to the more conservative Bordeaux style. Merlot is also a viticulture favorite in Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand
Merlot pairs well with an array of flavorful and savory dishes including roasted vegetables, meaty lasagnas, aged cheeses and marinara pastas. Its rich fruit flavors and soft tannins exceptionally compliment roasted chicken, duck, beef, pork loin, grilled lamb, blue cheese, garlic and mushrooms.
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