Merlot Wine: A Quick Guide

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A Brief History

In 1784, the earliest recorded mention of Merlot (under the synonym of Merlau) appeared in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area’s best.  Since then, Merlot wine has been labeled as the more affordable alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. How did this labeling happen? Well, it is partly because of the inexpensive commercial Merlot wine that has provided the varietal an unsatisfactory reputation.

It is perhaps the perfect time to set the record straight. This varietal is first class. Merlot wine does not only receive the highest esteem in the wine world, but it also complements well with different dishes. Merlot is cherished for its supple tannins, boisterous black cherry flavors, and chocolatey finish as well.

The supple tannins of this varietal help create a wine that’s easy to drink, with lush, rounded edges, and soft fruity flavors of berries and plums. To know more about this varietal, here is a quick guide to Merlot wine. Read on!

Digging Deeper

Flavor Profile

A medley of fresh flavors like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and plums blended with black pepper and cocoa tones, usually overwhelm the palate flavors for Merlot wine. Italy, France, and other cooler growing regions are likely to exhibit more muted fruit flavors and tannin.

It usually highlights the earthier notes instead of ripe fruits. On the other hand, Chile, California, and other warmer growing regions showcase the silkier tannin structure and ripe fruit character for Merlot.

Although single varietal Merlot wine, such as sokolin merlot wine, is produced or bottled more these days than in the past, Merlot is still a perfect blending wine for other varietals. The classics partners are Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

By mixing Merlot with such varietals, a mutually beneficial relationship can arise. Both the Cabernet varietals are mellowed or softened. Additionally, Merlot becomes more defined and structured.

Well, that is a win-win situation right there. The wine mixture goal for complementary grapes is, for the most part, boosted to diminish weaknesses and amplify the strengths through the synergy and beauty of a perfect blend.

Food Pairing

Merlot wine is a refined red wine that usually has a smooth, soft, and mellow character. Although it does have tannins just like most red wines, a lot of people think of it as a low-tannin, velvety red.

For this reason, Merlot pairs excellently with many foods even with seafood, particularly, shrimp, salmon, and shellfish. As we have said, this varietal has an earthy note that pairs excellently with foods such as bacon, pancetta, truffles, and mushrooms.

Moreover, Merlot is paired well with red meats such as tender beef cuts and lamb. Since the flavors of Merlot are usually subdued, they tend to be overwhelmed by strong, flavorful foods, blue-veined cheeses, and spicy foods. The palates of these foods can be powerful and overwhelming, which might cause you to forget about the flavors of the Merlot wine.

Temperature

It is a generally known belief that you must serve red wines at room temperatures. Although this belief was true before air conditioning and heating systems were invented, the room temperature today can be warmer for serving red wines. And it includes Merlot.

In serving wine, be wary of the correct room temperature. In that way, you can enjoy and savor the entire flavor profile of the wine. When it comes to red wines, the correct serving temperature is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees for storing.

If you can store your Merlot wine at the ideal storage temp, then you can serve it. Make sure to allow the wine to reach its ideal serving temp for about 30 minutes. However, if you store it at room temp, then you need to cool the wine before serving.

Just place the Merlot bottle in an ice bath for at least ten minutes. Do not over chill the wine and never serve it at refrigerator temps. Keep in mind that overchilling the Merlot wine will make the character and subtlety disappear.

Before you serve the wine, let it breathe to allow tannins to mellow out and boost the flavors. Letting the wine breathe does not need much. Just pop the cork and allow it to sit for at least an hour.

Glass Shape

You need to get a large bowl designed wine glass to enjoy the aromas and flavors of the Merlot wine fully.  The shape of the glass will heighten the scents and flavors of the Merlot as you drink. If you cannot find such a glass, worry not. You can opt for a glass designed for Bordeaux or Cabernet.

Takeaway

Merlot is the most planted or grown grape variety in France to date. It comes from the offspring of Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and Cabernet Franc. Since Merlot is a thinner-skinned red wine grape, it’s extremely susceptible to its environment. Nevertheless, they ripen much quicker than Cabernet. And because of Merlot’s stance in the middle of the spectrum of red wine, it pairs well with different foods, even with seafood.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you like Merlot wine?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

DeSalle, Rob and Ian Tattersall.  A Natural History of Wine.  Yale University Press, 2015.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Burst of a man holding a white labeled red wine bottle near wine glasses, is licensed under the Pexels license.

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About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland