Merlot is a dark bluish-black wine grape that is used as both a blending and varietal wine. It is believed that its name originated from the French word ‘merlet’ which refers to a young blackbird. Merlot wine usually have a medium body with hints of berry, plum and currant. This is one of the primary grape varieties grown worldwide. Until recent years this was not independently bottled and was only used as a blending wine.
This grape grows best in colder climates that have long hours of sun exposure. This vine buds early in the spring which leaves it susceptible to frost and its thin skinned berry increases its susceptibility to rot. A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to over ripen quickly and it can be a matter of days between the point of barely ripe to overripe. Many vinters disagree on the ideal time or stage of ripeness to pick the fruit.
Almost 2/3 of Merlot vines are grown in France. The vine has become very popular worldwide with numbers rivaling that of Cabernet Sauvignon. especially in areas with a cooler climate. Some of the other countries it is grown in are Italy, U.S. Romania, Australia, Turkey, Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Greece.
Merlot-based wines are enjoying a steady climb in popularity and rivals Cabernet Sauvignon as the most popular wine. These wines are known for their medium body and low tannins. Due its ‘softness’ Merlot is almost always blended with harsher grapes. It was not sold independently until more recently. This is not a wine that ages and should not be cellared as an investment. Merlot should be consumed within three to five years of its vintage. The ideal service temperature for Merlot is 64°F
Merlot is a diverse wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It matches perfectly with beef or pasta and makes a nice accompaniment for heavier chicken dishes. Dark chocolate is an excellent compliment for a glass of Merlot. Merlot also works well with most shellfish and the heavier fish such as salmon.