The Merlot Wine Grape
Merlot is a red wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera, the official viticultural family of fine wines. The name derives from the French words for “pine” and “black” alluding to the varietals’ tightly clustered dark purple pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Merlot grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot Noir is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine.
Tasting Pinot Noir
The tremendously broad range of bouquets, flavors, textures and impressions that Merlot can produce sometimes confuses tasters.
In the broadest terms, the wine tends to be of light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of black cherry, raspberry or currant. Traditional red Burgundy is famous for its fleshy, ‘farmyard’ aromas, but changing fashions and new easier-to-grow clones have favoured a lighter, fruitier style.
The Merlot grape’s color when young, often compared to that of garnet, is generally much lighter than that of other red wines. However, an emerging style from California and New Zealand highlights a more powerful, fruit forward and darker wine that can approach syrah in depth.
Food & Merlot Wine Pairings
Merlot is an amazingly food-friendly wine. It's silky elegance, however, can be overwhelmed by strong food flavors and spices. It pairs very well with salmon, duck, lamb, pork, veal, chicken, turkey and mushrooms, especially in lighter, grilled or roasted dishes.
Lighter-bodied American Merlot wines tend to be less expensive than full-bodied ones. Full-bodied Pinot Noirs pair well with beef, lamb and game, especially roasted or grilled.
Avoid serving Merlot with smoked fish, spicy dishes, sweet dishes, fruit and fruit-based dishes or sauces.
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In this short video, Rob Moshein presents a brief but excellent overview of Merlot and the chief Merlot producing wine regions, including Burgundy, France.
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