The Humble Merlot Grape. Why does it get such a bad wrap?
Wine Importer | Wine List Consultant | Speaker
It's persistent tannin, medium body and boundless cherry, plum and chocolate flavours make it really easy to drink and pair with many different foods. It's also the dominant variety in my favourite Bordeaux (Pomerol and Saint Emillion from the Right Bank of Bordeaux) So why the decline in merlot drinkers?
What people may not know is Merlot is the child of Cabernet Franc and the rare, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. So, Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot are actually sisters (or brothers, whatever floats your boat).
Jancis Robinson said it best “Despite Merlot’s reputation as the user-friendly, early maturing wine, the best of these wines can continue to develop in bottle for decades.” Some of the most expensive wine ever sold was a Merlot! A case of 1961 Pétrus went for a cool $144,000 USD – That’s $12,000USD a bottle!
So, I think it's time we started giving merlot a bit more love. First things first though, where do you find Merlot?
Merlot can be found in both cool climates and warm climates. From France, where it is truly at home in Bordeaux, Southern France (where it's usually blended with Malbec) as well as Northern Italy and Chilé, it displays a ruby, garnet colour and exhibits ripe red and black fruits like Raspberry, Cherry, Plum and Figs. Floral notes of Violets, Tobacco Leaf and Mint, Licorice and Anise. As it ages, it will develop mushroom and forest floor as well as bitter chocolate and coffee characters. These wines are generally more medium bodied.
Try them now
Sensi "Collezione" Merlot IGT
Deep red in colour, with an elegant presence of aromatic herbs on the nose as well as on your palate. If still young, a scent of raspberry. With age, it acquires spicy tones and a pleasant dry taste.
Marrenon Les Grains Merlot IGP Méditerranée
Very expressive fruity nose (blackberries) with soft spices. The mouth is soft and full with red fruits aromas coming back in a global harmony. Will be a great companion for aperitif, exotic or Italian food.
Terra Noble Classic Merlot
Voted Number 1 Winery of Chilé 2 years running!
Warm Climate Merlot examples are that of Napa Valley, USA, Australia or Argentina. These wines are usually have more refined tannin and are quite bold, particularly because of barrel ageing. You tend to find more vanilla and cedar characters in Merlot from these regions simply because of barrel age. You will find wines from these regions are a deeper colour than their cool climate counterparts as well as more full bodied. . They are dry with big black fruit flavours like blackberry, blueberry & plums. The green notes are quite leafy rather than peppery but you also get lovely coffee and mocha characters coming through.
Other times you will sneakily find Merlot is in "Supertuscans". In Tuscany, Merlot is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in award winning regions like Bolgheri as well as in Sangiovese in other areas. You will also find Merlot subtly growing in China...watch this space on that....
Other exciting Merlot regions include Washington State's Columbia Valley. There is outstanding acidity in the merlot from this region, it's cooler climate than it's neighbour state Napa Valley as the nighttime temperatures drop substantially here. I highly recommend giving wines from this region a try.
So that's my little Merlot wrap up. I love what I call a "kick ass Merlot". They really punch above their price and compliment so many foods. If you haven't tried merlot for a while, give it a go. I've recommended a few that we sell above but otherwise, let me know in the comments below what your favourite merlot is!