Merlot is both friendly and versatile. Whether it’s bottled on its own or blended with grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot always brings its distinctive fruit flavours to soften wines that might otherwise be hard or too dense. French Merlot has a long tradition that’s worth exploring.
Merlot is known for being approachable – dry and flavourful, but with a generous offering of fruit. It generally shows flavours of plum, violet, cherry, cocoa, blueberry, and warm spices. It can also display notes of graphite, earth, and tobacco. Merlot is softer in terms of tannin and structure than many of the grapes it’s blended with, and it softens the hard edges of many blends.
When allowed to ripen fully and aged in oak for long periods, Merlot can develop into a sturdy, long-aging wine, and there is quite a range of styles – from simple, straightforward and inexpensive Merlots to muscular, age-worthy Merlots.
The best known French Merlot comes from Bordeaux, specifically from the right bank, north of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers. If you’re looking for a Bordeaux that contains a significant portion of Merlot, look for wines from Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac. Many Bordeaux are blends, and in addition to Merlot, you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec in these delicious and structured wines.
Other areas in France that produce Merlot in significant quantities are Languedoc, Bergerac, Cahors, Provence, and the Loire Valley.
Lush, soft Merlots are ideal for sipping on their own or for pairing with a wide variety of cheeses, as well as roasted meat. Earthier red wines like Merlot pair beautifully with braised short ribs or with a juicy steak. Merlot is incredibly versatile when it comes to pairing with food, as its soft tannins and generous fruit flavors are complementary for a number of dishes, and Merlot rarely overpowers or dominates other flavors on the table.
Merlot is an ideal choice for pleasing a wide range of palates, which explains the grape’s immense popularity. Whether you choose a high profile Bordeaux or select a Merlot from a lesser known appellation, you’ll find a huge number of Merlots worth trying.
Video Review of Merlot