Merlot is a popular thin-skinned red wine grape that is believed to be descended from the Cabernet Franc grape and was first recorded in Italy in 1832. It is used for both the purposes of blending inspired by the Bordeaux wine region of France and also for the production of straight varietal wine. In the 1990’s particularly, Merlot experienced a huge surge in popularity and became the new trendy wine but its popularity has proved to possess staying power. In 2003 there were over 50,000 acres in California devoted to the Merlot grape alone.
Some of the highest quality Merlots comes from Bordeaux, France, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Chile, and Washington State. These areas have elevated the historical planting of Merlot into better quality soils which have resulted in a Merlot that is less-suited for blending and perfect for its own varietal. The taste of a Merlot is dependent on the type of soil in which it was grown. For instance, Merlot from flatter and more clay-like soil results in a smoother, more velvety wine. Merlot grown in more mountainous regions tends to taste more similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Many Merlots tend to have a taste reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon, but they has less acidity due to a thinner skin in the grapes and earlier ripening time. It also frequently possesses a wide variety of flavors such as: currant, plum, black cherry, caramel, clove, bay leaf, bell pepper, olive, and violet. It is low in tannins and many wine drinkers believe that it is smooth and an easy-to-drink red varietal.
When blended, Merlot is often combined with Cabernet Sauvignon to balance the taste strengths and flavors of each separate varietal resulting in a blend with the best of both worlds. Another benefit to Merlot and the Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blends is that the cost is often substantially less than the fuller-bodied Cabert Sauvignon varietal itself.
Although many wine drinkers think that red wines should only be served right at room temperature, Merlot should actually be served a few degrees below room temperature as it can sometimes develop less pleasant tastes at approximately 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilling it for simply a couple minutes will ensure that the wine is slightly cooler and result in the best possible flavors.
Because Merlot is not quite as rich as some other red wine varietals, it is still fairly flexible in its easy pairings with many popular dinner choices. Because it is a medium-bodied wine, it will pair well with veal, meatloaf, sausages, and hearty pasta dishes
2007 Monte Bello
Santa Cruz Mountains
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Fantastic flavors that include Cassis, violets, blackberry. Wet stone, espresso, notes of sweet oak.
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