Merlot wine is one of the most popular red wines in the world. With its soft texture, deliciously plummy fruit flavor, Merlot wine has impressed connoisseurs for centuries. Most Merlots are easy-drinking reds, having velvety sensual texture and an approachable style that goes well with food as well as their own. Comparatively low and unobtrusive tannins make it a smooth and accessible addition to any collection
Merlot is a dark blue colored wine grape variety with a thin delicate skin and is one of the most planted grapes in the world. The name Merlot is a diminutive of ‘Merle’ which in French means the ‘Little Blackbird’, referring to the color of the grape. It is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine. Because of it’s diverse range of styles, Merlot grape can be used both as a blending grape and for varietal wines.
Origins of Merlot:
We find the earliest mention of Merlot in France written in the notes of a Bordeaux official in 1784. In this document, Merlot was named Merlau. It was not until the 1800s that the word Merlot was used in reference to the wine. Originating in the hills of the Right Bank of Bordeaux, the Merlot wine first earned praise as a blending wine to add softness and lushness to the favorite grape of the region, cabernet sauvignon. The combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot complemented each other really well and hence, became popular to the extent that their mix became the main ingredient of the world-renowned Bordeaux blend. With time, Merlot gained popularity as a powerful blending wine and started spreading across the world especially in countries like Italy and the USA. It also found popularity as a single variant in countries like Chile, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.
The infamous Sideways Episode:
An interesting turn of events affected the popularity of Merlot wine. The critically acclaimed movie ‘sideways‘ shows disgust towards the wine by the protagonist. This did, in fact, turn a generation of wine drinkers off of Merlot. The combination of poor production and bad reputation had one positive, however — the winemakers who continued to grow Merlot re-committed to producing the highest quality. This revival did not go unnoticed, and popular opinion about Merlot began to turn. More and more people are now rediscovering the beauty of this versatile wine. As a matter of fact Merlot even has it’s own holiday, International Merlot Day, which you can celebrate with a bottle of your favorite Merlot on 7th of November.
While for some it does not matter, for others not pronouncing their favourite beverage rightly can be daunting. In this case, if you have never taken french or not a native, the very first question that pops up in your head would be ‘How do you pronounce Merlot wine?’ It is pronounced as ‘mur-loh’ or ‘mair-loh’. It has a subtle mehr sound for the first syllable. Well, unless you end Merlot with a t sound, most people are unlikely to bat an eye.
What does merlot wine taste like?
Typically, Merlot is a velvet-red color medium to full-bodied wine that falls between Pinot Noir and Syrah wine in fullness and hues. It is known as a chameleon because of its adaptability towards different climatic regions, taking on the characters of both the location and wine making techniques.
Merlot is comparatively low in tannins which gives it a less bitter taste. Classic Merlot wine has a fruity note to its flavor. It exhibits aromas of dark fruits like raspberry, cherry, cocoa, blueberries and sometimes even jam. However, depending upon the climate where the grape grows, the Merlot wine can have distinct flavors. In the cool climate, especially the regions like Bordeaux and Northern Italy, Merlot wine expresses notes of violet, tobacco, bay leaf, licorice, bitter chocolate, and earthiness. Whereas in the warm climates of places like California and Australia, Merlot is often more fruit-forward, with leafy green notes, chocolate, and rich baking spices like vanilla.
Merlot has a relatively higher alcohol content, ranging from 12 to 15 percent by volume. This is because of the grape’s naturally high sugar levels. Interestingly, the place of growth of the grape decides the alcohol content in Merlot wine. Climate influences ripeness which in turn influences the alcohol levels. Merlot wine from cooler regions have lower alcohol level by volume as compared to those from warmer climate.
Types of Merlot Wine:
The distinction in Merlot wines across the globe comes because of different physical conditions of the regions. Each have their own effects on the resultant Merlot wine.
- Bordeaux: The birthplace of Merlot makes one of the most iconic Merlot wines. Vineyards here have limestone rich soil giving the wine earthy and mineral tones with robust flavors.
- Tuscany: Grown under the warm sun of central Italy, Tuscany Merlots have really less tannins and are famous and expensive. These contribute to blends known as ‘super-tuscans’ and have floral aromas and subtle flavors.
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Located in the northern parts of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has small wineries that produce expensive cool-climate Merlots, which burst with anise, spice and stone notes.
- California: These Merlots range from sweet grocery store varieties to high-end, nuanced masterpieces. Napa Valley produces delectable Merlots that have hints of vanilla, sweet spice and new oak.
- Washington: The Merlots here have greater acidity and tannins comparatively. These wines have smooth notes of coffee, plum and dark chocolate.
- Chile: Chilean Merlot wines are typically powerful and fruit driven. These wines are comparable to fruity, bold Californian varieties. They have dark cherry flavors and asian spice notes.
- India: Indian Merlot wine get its catch from the Bangalore Blue grape, a variety of fox grapes (characterized by its foxy flavor). These are one of the most prominent grape varieties for wine in India.
Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
Often in blind taste tests, one mixes up Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, especially in the cooler climates. They are used in red wine blends together. Both these wines have flavors of juicy dark fruits and herbal notes. While both wines comes from different grapes, they do share a parent – Cabernet Franc. Wines from this family have pyzrazines, aromatic organic chemical compounds that produce bell pepper and herbal notes that are more prominent in cooler regions. Merlot from cooler regions develop firmer tannins, more structure and savory character than in warm climates, and therefore, making it easier to mistake for Cabernet Sauvignon.