Merlot Grape Variety

merlot grapes in a vineyard


Merlot Origins

Merlot is a red wine grape varietal that is thought to have derived its name from merle”—French for young blackbird—most likely in reference to the color of the grape.

Merlot is used as both a single varietal wine and a varietal for blending—along with its natural companion, Cabernet Sauvignon, and smaller percentages of other possible varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Merlot is considered a great complement to Cabernet Sauvignon as it works to aid in softening some of Cab’s tannins while contributing greater fruit qualities (sometimes referred to as “fleshiness”), therefore making the wine a bit more approachable and adding a dimension of complexity at the same time.

Merlot Aroma and Flavor Components

This grape produces intense dried and baked red fruits (cherry, berry, and plum), bakeshop (vanilla, chocolate, and spice), tobacco (nutmeg and clove), and garden (green olive).

Merlot Structural Components

Merlot generally contains medium acidity and tannin. Merlot-based wines usually maintain a medium to medium plus body, though can approach full body with a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.

Merlot Food Pairings

Merlot pairs beautifully with a range of foods. Try it with turkey, roast duck, and lean cuts of meats. Generally, middle-weight dishes will do very well with Merlot wines. Also try it with pork, veal, mushrooms, pancetta and roasted vegetables. Nutty and mild cheeses such as Swiss, Gruyere and Parmesan will also pair well with this wine.

Merlot Serving Tips

Generally, red wines should be served at around 60ºF. Put the bottle in the fridge for about 15 minutes before serving, that should do the trick. An aged Merlot may also benefit from decanting. You can also allow the wine to sit in the glass for 10-15 minutes to achieve this result. Serve Merlot wines in a glass with a large, rounded bowl.

Merlot Growing Locations

Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in the blended red wines from Bordeaux, France. It maintains the reputation of being their most widely planted varietal grown throughout the region. Merlot dominated wines can also be found largely throughout Washington state (Columbia Valley), California’s Sonoma County (Dry Creek Valley) and Napa Valley, Chile, and northeast Italy’s Friuli- Venezia region.


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