“If They Order Merlot, We’re Leaving”
This famous line was uttered by Paul Giamatti’s character in the movie “Sideways,” filmed in the Paso Roblas wine region north of Santa Barbara, Ca. This line tanked Merlot sales in California for years afterwards as Merlot fans felt criticized and belittled for liking what was implied as an inferior wine. Obviously, Merlot held it’s own and is back as strong as it was before this 2005 film was released!
Merlot is not the soda pop of wines, it just has been overexposed and is everywhere, ergo, it appears to be commonplace.
In the World
Merlot is a French grape, native to the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux, though it is being planted in new world countries more frequently as of late. Merlot is Bordeax’s most planted varietal and the most important component in most all of the region’s red wines. The names St.-Emilion and Pomerol are not shabby real estate in western France by any means. Because of Merlot’s ease of growing, it is now being grown prolifically throughout new and old wine world regions.
In the Winery
The grapes are abundant, they grow all over the world without too much hassle and Merlot wine is not a complicated wine for vintners to produce – voila, an abundance of Merlot wine with deep color and high levels of alcohol.
These characteristics make Merlot an excellent blending wine with grapes with headier levels of tannin and acid but less forward fruit like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.
In the Glass
With good quality Merlot the black fruits prevail with plums and black cherries giving Merlot a deep ruby color with medium to high intensity aromas. Some climates produce aromas with more of a dried fruit essence like prunes rather than plums, dried cherries rather than cherries, and also fig. When you catch a whiff of brown spices that remind you of Christmas pudding, you know you are drinking a Merlot.
In the Mouth
Merlot is usually a ready to drink wine from the wine store to the table. Merlot offers a richness and suppleness in the mouth that consumers value and seek out. The usual low to modest tannin and acid effect makes supping with food or without enjoyable and yummy.
As for pairing food with Merlot, strong cheeses, pasta with red sauces, hamburger or non grilled beef, and chocolate are highly recommended.