Red Wine 101 - Merlot

Red Wine 101

Merlot gets a bad rap, and many people don’t know why. They simply do not drink Merlot because it has become unpopular to do so. However, a good Merlot can beat out an average Cabernet or Pinot noir anytime. Most Merlots have notes of blueberry, cherry, plums and chocolate. They also tend to be less tannic than most red wines.

In France, Merlot, like Cabernet, is often used as a blending grape. In Bordeaux, it is the dominant grape in wine produced from the right bank of the Gironde River, in areas such as Pomerol and St. Emillion. There is more Merlot planted in France than any other grape, and it is often added to wines to enhance the qualities of richness and lushness.

In Italy, Merlot is planted in the Friuli wine region where it is made either as straight Merlot or blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. In Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese for the same reasons it is added to French blends.

Merlot from California is normally grown in Napa, Monterey and Sonoma County. Napa Merlots tend to have notes of ripe blackberry and black raspberry. In the cooler climate of Sonoma, they are more likely to display notes of plum, tea leaf and black cherry.

Washington State, with its cooler climate, produces beautiful Merlots. A typical Washington Merlot is medium to full-bodied and well balanced. They tend to be smooth, to the point of creamy, and have nuances of blackberry, black plum, some smoke, chocolate, and vanilla. These wines have the chocolate covered cherry flavor that epitomizes Merlot.