Merlot is a dark-skinned grape which makes two starkly different styles of wine.
In the New World, it is made into single varietal, elegant wines with notes of plum and blackberry fruits and velvety tannins.

Because of Merlot’s low tannins and smooth finish, it is one of the first wines I recommend when someone asks for an easy-drinking red wine.

Merlot Cheat Sheet

In France, it is one of the primary grapes of the Bordeaux blend along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot and makes full bodied wines with ageing potential.

Originally from Bordeaux, Merlot in French means ‘little blackbird’.

Beyond France, it is the second-most planted grape in the USA (Cab Sauv is first). It is also widely grown in Australia, Northern Italy, many of central and east European countries, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and Mexico.

Popular in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon, it tends to be cultivated in the cooler parts of those regions as it ripens earlier.

Merlot Food Pairing

One of the ways to pair food and wine is to match the body and flavours of the wine to that of the food. While full-body, Bordeaux-style wines pair well with grilled meats and dishes with heavy flavourful sauces. Smoother, fruitier Merlot wines pair well with grilled chicken, pasta in arrabiata sauce, mushroom tarts and bloomy cheese. 

My suggested pairings with Merlot are:

1. Grilled chicken with roast vegetables. The low tannins of the Merlot do not overpower the light flavours of chicken.

2. Pasta with roasted tomatoes or tomato-based sauces. Merlot is one of the few wines that pairs well with tomato-based sauces in pasta.

3. Camembert Cheese. Camembert has a thick rind like Brie but a stronger pungent aroma and taste. The low tannins of Merlot compliment the cheese without overpowering the taste.

4. Mushroom tarts. The eartiness of the mushroom compliments the light and earthy flavours such as thyme, fallen leaves, present in the wine. 

Have you tried a Merlot recently? Which region was it from?

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