Merlot

Merlot

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Encyclopedia
Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 grape
Grape
A grape is a non-climacteric fruit, specifically a berry, that grows on the perennial and deciduous woody vines of the genus Vitis. Grapes can be eaten raw or they can be used for making jam, juice, jelly, vinegar, wine, grape seed extracts, raisins, molasses and grape seed oil. Grapes are also...

, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal
Varietal
"Varietal" describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot...

 wines. The name Merlot is thought to derive from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 word for young blackbird, merlot, a diminutive of merle, the blackbird (Turdus merula), probably from the color of the grape. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry
Berry
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

, plum
Plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

, and currant
Zante currant
The Zante currant , or currant are dried berries of small, sweet, seedless grape variety Black Corinth . The name comes from the Anglo-French phrase "raisins de Corinthe" and the Ionian island of Zakynthos , which was once the major producer and exporter...

. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley...

, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley...

, Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone - as in the Loire's Chinon...

, Malbec
Malbec
Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are long known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in the South West...

 and Petit Verdot
Petit verdot
Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favour in its home region. When it does ripen, it is added in small amounts to add tannin, colour and flavour to the...

, Merlot is one of the primary grapes in Bordeaux wine
Bordeaux wine
A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world...

 where it is the most widely planted grape. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietal
Varietal
"Varietal" describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot...

s in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world's most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260000 hectares (642,473.4 acre) globally, with an increasing trend. This puts Merlot just behind Cabernet Sauvignon's 262000 hectares (647,415.5 acre).

History


Researchers at University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis is a public teaching and research university established in 1905 and located in Davis, California, USA. Spanning over , the campus is the largest within the University of California system and third largest by enrollment...

 believe that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carménère
Carmenère
The Carménère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot....

 and Cabernet Sauvignon. The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 region as one of the area's best. The name comes from the Occitan word "merlot", which means "young blackbird" ("merle" is the French word for several kinds of thrushes
Thrush (bird)
The thrushes, family Turdidae, are a group of passerine birds that occur worldwide.-Characteristics:Thrushes are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized birds, inhabiting wooded areas, and often feed on the ground or eat small fruit. The smallest thrush may be the Forest Rock-thrush, at and...

, including blackbirds); the naming came either because of the grape's beautiful dark-blue color, or due to blackbirds' fondness for grapes. By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc
Médoc
The Médoc is a region of France, well known as a wine growing region, located in the département of Gironde, on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, north of Bordeaux. Its name comes from Medullicus, or "country of the Medulli", the local Celtic tribe...

 on the "Left Bank" of the Gironde
Gironde
For the Revolutionary party, see Girondists.Gironde is a common name for the Gironde estuary, where the mouths of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge, and for a department in the Aquitaine region situated in southwest France.-History:...

. After a series of setbacks that includes a severe frost in 1956 and several vintages in the 1960s lost to rot, French authorities in Bordeaux banned new plantings of Merlot vines between 1970 and 1975.

It was first recorded in Italy around Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 under the synonym Bordò in 1855. The grape was introduced to the Swiss, from Bordeaux, sometime in the 19th century and was recorded in the Swiss canton of Ticino
Ticino
Canton Ticino or Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. Named after the Ticino river, it is the only canton in which Italian is the sole official language...

 between 1905 and 1910. In the 1990s, Merlot saw an upswing of popularity in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Red wine consumption, in general, increased in the US following the airing of the 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....

report on the French Paradox
French paradox
The French Paradox is the observation that French people suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats...

 and the potential health benefits of wine and the chemical resveratrol
Resveratrol
Resveratrol is a stilbenoid, a type of natural phenol, and a phytoalexin produced naturally by several plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi....

. The popularity of Merlot stemmed in part from the relative ease in pronouncing the name of the wine as well as its softer, fruity profile that made it more approachable to some wine drinkers.

Viticulture



Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The color has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar
Sugars in wine
The sugars in wine grapes are what make winemaking possible. During the process of fermentation, sugars are broken down and converted by yeasts into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Grapes accumulate sugars as they grow on the grapevine through the translocation of sucrose molecules that are produced...

 content and lower malic acid
Malic acid
Malic acid is an organic compound with the formula HO2CCH2CHOHCO2H. It is a dicarboxylic acid which is made by all living organisms, contributes to the pleasantly sour taste of fruits, and is used as a food additive. Malic acid has two stereoisomeric forms , though only the L-isomer exists...

. Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous
Ferrous
Ferrous , in chemistry, indicates a divalent iron compound , as opposed to ferric, which indicates a trivalent iron compound ....

 clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thin skin increases its susceptibility to rot. If bad weather occurs during flowering, the Merlot vine is prone to develop coulure
Coulure
Coulure is a potential viticultural hazard that is the result of metabolic reactions to weather conditions that causes a failure of grapes to develop after flowering. In English the word shatter is sometimes used. Coulure is triggered by periods of cold, cloudy, rainy weather or very high...

. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Water stress
Irrigation in viticulture
The role of irrigation in viticulture is considered both controversial and essential to wine production. In the physiology of the grapevine, water is a vital component to function of the vine with its presence or lack impacting photosynthesis, new plant shoot growth, as well as the development of...

 is important to the vine with it thriving in well drained soil more so than at base of a slope. Pruning
Pruning
Pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping , improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for...

 is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced. Wine consultant Michel Rolland
Michel Rolland
Michel Rolland is an influential Bordeaux-based oenologist, with hundreds of clients across 13 countries and influencing wine style around the world...

 is a major proponent for reducing the yields of Merlot grapes to improve quality. The age of the vine is also important, with older vines contributing character to the resulting wine.

A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly overripen once it hits its initial ripeness
Ripeness in viticulture
The term ripeness in viticulture can mean different things to different viticulturists and winemakers. At its broadest definition it refers to the completion of the ripening process of wine grapes on the vine which signals the beginning of harvest...

 level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest
Harvest (wine)
The harvesting of wine grapes is one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels with winemakers basing their decision to pick based on the style of wine they wish to...

 Merlot. The wine makers of Château Pétrus
Château Pétrus
Pétrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation near its eastern border to Saint-Émilion. An estate of limited size, it produces a limited production red wine almost entirely from Merlot grapes, on occasion with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, and produces no second wine...

 favor early picking to best maintain the wine's acidity
Acids in wine
The acids in wine are an important component in both winemaking and the finished product of wine. They are present in both grapes and wine, having direct influences on the color, balance and taste of the wine as well as the growth and vitality of yeasts during fermentation and protecting the wine...

 and finesse as well as its potential for aging
Aging of wine
The aging of wine, and its ability to potentially improve wine quality, distinguishes wine from most other consumable goods. While wine is perishable and capable of deteriorating, complex chemical reactions involving a wine's sugars, acids and phenolic compounds can alter the aroma, color,...

. Others, such as Rolland, favor late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness.

Major regions


France is home to nearly two thirds of the world's total plantings of Merlot. Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country's 5th most planted grape), California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Turkey, Canada, Chile, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, Mexico and other parts of the United States such as Washington and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.

France


Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. In 2004, total French plantations stood at 115000 hectares (284,170.9 acre). It is most prominent in Southwest France in regions like Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors
Cahors
Cahors is the capital of the Lot department in south-western France.Its site is dramatic being contained on three sides within an udder shaped twist in the river Lot known as a 'presqu'île' or peninsula...

 where it is often blended with Malbec. The largest recent increase in Merlot plantations has occurred in the south of France, such as Languedoc-Roussillon
Languedoc wine
Languedoc - Roussillon wine, including the vin de pays labeled Vin de Pays d'Oc, is produced in southern France. While "Languedoc" can refer to a specific historic region of France and Northern Catalonia, usage since the 20th century has primarily referred to the northern part of the...

 where it is often made as a varietal Vin de Pays
Vin de pays
Vin de pays is a French term meaning "country wine". Vins de pays are a step in the French wine classification which is above the table wine classification, but below the VDQS and Appellation d'origine contrôlée classifications...

wine. Merlot can also be found in significant quantities in Provence, Loire Valley
Loire Valley (wine)
The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. In between are the regions of...

, Savoie, Ardèche
Ardèche
Ardèche is a department in south-central France named after the Ardèche River.- History :The area has been inhabited by humans at least since the Upper Paleolithic, as attested by the famous cave paintings at Chauvet Pont d'Arc. The plateau of the Ardeche River has extensive standing stones ,...

, Charente
Charente
Charente is a department in southwestern France, in the Poitou-Charentes region, named after the Charente River, the most important river in the department, and also the river beside which the department's two largest towns, Angoulême and Cognac, are sited.-History:Charente is one of the original...

, Corrèze
Corrèze
Corrèze is a department in south central France, named after the Corrèze River.The inhabitants of the department are called Corréziens or Corréziennes according to gender.-History:...

, Drôme
Drôme
Drôme , a department in southeastern France, takes its name from the Drôme River.-History:The French National Constituent Assembly set up Drôme as one of the original 83 departments of France on March 4, 1790, during the French Revolution...

, Isère
Isère
Isère is a department in the Rhône-Alpes region in the east of France named after the river Isère.- History :Isère is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the former province of Dauphiné...

 and Vienne
Vienne
Vienne is the northernmost département of the Poitou-Charentes region of France, named after the river Vienne.- Viennese history :Vienne is one of the original 83 departments, established on March 4, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Poitou,...

.

In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot's role is to add body and softness. Despite accounting for 50-60% of overall plantings in Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, the grape tends to account for an average of 25% of the blends-especially in the Bordeaux wine regions
Bordeaux wine regions
The wine regions of Bordeaux are the area around the city of Bordeaux within the Gironde department of Aquitaine. The region is naturally divided by the Gironde River into a Left Bank area which includes the Médoc and the subregions of St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St.-Julien, and Margaux and a Right Bank...

 of Graves
Graves
Graves is an important subregion of the Bordeaux wine region. Graves is situated on the left bank of the Garonne river, in the upstream part of the region, southeast of the city Bordeaux and stretch over...

 and Médoc
Médoc
The Médoc is a region of France, well known as a wine growing region, located in the département of Gironde, on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, north of Bordeaux. Its name comes from Medullicus, or "country of the Medulli", the local Celtic tribe...

. Of these Left Bank regions, the commune of St-Estephe uses the highest percentage of Merlot in the blends. However, Merlot is much more prominent on the Right Bank of the Gironde
Gironde
For the Revolutionary party, see Girondists.Gironde is a common name for the Gironde estuary, where the mouths of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge, and for a department in the Aquitaine region situated in southwest France.-History:...

 in the regions of Pomerol
Pomerol
Pomerol is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.It is located near Bordeaux.-Population:-Wine:The mostly small-sized producers in this area of about produce red wines. As in the neighbouring appellation of Saint-Émilion, the predominant grape variety is Merlot,...

 and Saint-Émilion
Saint-Émilion AOC
Saint-Émilion is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée for wine in the Bordeaux wine region of France, where it is situated in the Libourne subregion on the right bank of the Dordogne...

 where it will commonly comprises the majority of the blend. One of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus
Château Pétrus
Pétrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation near its eastern border to Saint-Émilion. An estate of limited size, it produces a limited production red wine almost entirely from Merlot grapes, on occasion with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, and produces no second wine...

, is almost all Merlot. In Pomerol, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

-clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 soils of the region give Merlot more a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions. It was in Pomerol that the garagistes
Garagistes
The garagistes refers to a group of innovative winemakers in the Bordeaux region, producing "Vins de garage", "Garage wine". A group emerged in the mid 1990s in reaction to the traditional style of red Bordeaux wine, which is highly tannic and requires long ageing in the bottle to become drinkable...

movement began with small scale production of highly sought after Merlot based wines. In the sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

y, clay-limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 based soils of Saint-Émilion, Merlot accounts for around 60% of the blend and is usually blended with Cabernet Franc. In limestone, Merlot tends to develop more perfume notes while in sandy soils the wines are generally softer than Merlot grown in clay dominant soils.

Rest of Europe


In Italy, a large portion of Merlot is planted in the Friuli
Friuli
Friuli is an area of northeastern Italy with its own particular cultural and historical identity. It comprises the major part of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, i.e. the province of Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia, excluding Trieste...

 wine region where it is made as a varietal or sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. In other parts of Italy, such as Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese
Sangiovese
Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety whose name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove"...

 to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends. Merlot's low acidity serves as a balance for the higher acidity in many Italian wine grapes with the grape often being used in blends in the Veneto
Veneto wine
Veneto is a wine region in north-eastern Italy, one of a group of three highly productive Italian regions known collectively as the Venezie and the biggest DOC producer of the three...

, Alto Adige and Umbria
Umbria
Umbria is a region of modern central Italy. It is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked.Its capital is Perugia.Assisi and Norcia are historical towns associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and St...

. The Strada del Merlot is a popular tourist route through Merlot wine countries along the Isonzo
Soca
The Soča or Isonzo is a 140 km long river that flows through western Slovenia and northeastern Italy. An Alpine river in character, its source lies in the Trenta Valley in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, at an elevation of around 1,100 metres...

 river. Italian Merlots are often characterized by their light bodies and herbal notes.

In Hungary, Merlot complements Kékfrankos
Blaufränkisch
Blaufränkisch is a dark-skinned variety of grape used for red wine. Blaufränkisch, which is a late-ripening variety gives red wines which are typically rich in tannin and may exhibit a pronounced spicy character...

, Kékoportó
Blauer Portugieser
Blauer Portugieser is a red Austrian and German wine grape found primarily in the Rheinhessen, Pfalz and wine regions of Lower Austria. It is also one of the permitted grapes in the Hungarian wine Egri Bikavér . In Germany, the cultivated area covered or 4.5% of the total vineyard area in 2007...

 and Kadarka
Kadarka
Kadarka or Gamza is a dark-skinned variety of grape used for red wine. It has a long history and is popular in Hungary and Bulgaria, where it is known as гъмза Gamza. It used to be an important constituent of the Hungarian red cuvée Bull's Blood of Eger or Szekszárd, but has long been in decline in...

 as a component in Bull's Blood
Egri Bikavér
Egri Bikavér is Hungary's most famous red wine. It comes from the Eger wine region of northern Hungary; the Szekszárd region produces a similar wine with similar name but with different character.-Blend:...

. It is also made into varietal wine known as Egri Médoc Noir which is noted for its balanced acid levels and sweet taste. In the Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

an countries of Bulgaria
Bulgarian wine
Grape growing and wine production have a long history in Bulgaria, dating back to the times of the Thracians. Wine is, together with beer and grape rakia, among the most popular alcoholic beverages in the country.-Viticultural regions:...

, Macedonia
Macedonian wine
The Republic of Macedonia produces wine on some of vineyards, and the production was 108,100 tonnes in 2008. There are also some additional of vineyards dedicated to table grapes....

, Moldova
Moldovan wine
With a production of 124,200 tons of wine , Moldova has a well established wine industry. It has a vineyard area of of which are used for commercial production. The remaining are vineyards planted in villages around the houses used to make home-made wine, or "vin de casa"...

, Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

 and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Merlot is often produced as a full bodied wine that can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. In Switzerland, Merlot accounts for nearly 85% of the wine production in Ticino where it is often made in a pale "white Merlot" style. In Spain, winemakers are petitioning authorities to allow Merlot to be a permitted grape in the red wines of the Rioja
Rioja (wine)
Rioja is a wine, with Denominación de Origen Calificada named after La Rioja, in Spain. Rioja is made from grapes grown not only in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, but also in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja...

 region. Plantings of Merlot has increased in recent years in the Austrian wine region of Burgenland
Burgenland
Burgenland is the easternmost and least populous state or Land of Austria. It consists of two Statutarstädte and seven districts with in total 171 municipalities. It is 166 km long from north to south but much narrower from west to east...

 where vineyards previously growing Welschriesling
Welschriesling
Welschriesling is an ancient variety of white wine grape, unrelated to the Rhine Riesling, that is grown throughout Central Europe. The origin of Welschriesling is uncertain. The German name "Welschriesling" literally means 'Romanic Riesling', and most of the synonyms in Central Europe are...

 are being uprooted to make room for more plantings.

United States


In the early history of California wine, the Merlot was used primarily as a 100% varietal
Varietal
"Varietal" describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot...

 wine until wine maker Warren Winiarski
Warren Winiarski
Warren Winiarski is California winemaker. Winiarski was born in a large Polish section of Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he entered the University of Chicago, then left for a school of agriculture and mining in Colorado, and finally graduated from St. John's College in...

 encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends. In California, Merlot can range from very fruity simple wines (sometimes referred to by critics as a "red Chardonnay
Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is originated from the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand...

") to more serious, barrel aged examples. It can also be used a primary component in Meritage
Meritage
Meritage is a proprietary term used to denote red and white Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the Bordeaux region's legally protected designation of origin. Winemakers must license the Meritage trademark from its owner, the California-based Meritage Alliance...

 blends. While Merlot is grown throughout the state, it is particularly prominent in Napa
Napa Valley AVA
Napa Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Napa County, California, United States. Napa Valley is considered one of the top wine regions in the United States...

, Monterey
Monterey AVA
The Monterey AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in eastern Monterey County, California. It was established in 1984. It is part of the larger Central Coast AVA. It runs roughly from its northern point, north of Monterey Bay to its southern point, abutting Paso Robles, California...

 and Sonoma County
Sonoma County wine
Sonoma County wine is wine made in Sonoma County, California, USA. County names in the United States automatically qualify as legal appellations of origin for wine produced from grapes grown in that county and do not require registration with the United States Department of the Treasury, Alcohol...

. In Napa, examples from Los Carneros
Los Carneros AVA
Los Carneros AVA is an American Viticultural Area which includes parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties in California, U.S.A.. It is located north of San Pablo Bay. The proximity to the cool fog and breezes from the bay makes the climate in Los Carneros cooler and more moderate than the wine...

, Mount Veeder, Oakville
Oakville AVA
The Oakville AVA is an American Viticultural Area located within Napa Valley AVA and centered around the town of Oakville, California. The appellation extends over a flat expanse of well drained gravel soil between the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains...

 and Rutherford
Rutherford AVA
The Rutherford AVA is an American Viticultural Area located within Napa Valley AVA and centered around the town of Rutherford, California. The area is known for its unique terroir particularly with its Cabernet Sauvignon. The well drained soil of this area is composition of gravel, loam and sand...

 tend to show ripe blackberry
Blackberry
The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by any of several species in the Rubus genus of the Rosaceae family. The fruit is not a true berry; botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit, composed of small drupelets. The plants typically have biennial canes and perennial roots. Blackberries and...

 and black raspberry
Black raspberry
Black raspberry is a common name for three species of the genus Rubus:*Rubus leucodermis, native to western North America*Rubus occidentalis, native to eastern North America, the species that is commercially harvested, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, from developed cultivars.*Rubus coreanus,...

 notes. Sonoma Merlots from Alexander Valley, Carneros and Dry Creek Valley tend to show plum
Plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

, tea leaf
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 and black cherry notes.

In the 1980s, Merlot helped put the Washington wine industry on the world's wine map. Prior to this period there was a general perception that the climate of Washington State was too cold to produce red wine varietals. Merlots from Leonetti Cellar, Andrew Will, Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle
Chateau Ste. Michelle
The Chateau Ste. Michelle is a winery in Woodinville, Washington. The winery is noted for its best-selling Riesling bottlings. Chateau Ste. Michelle is the largest single producer of Riesling wine in the United States. The winery also produces wines of other varietals and some experimental wines...

 demonstrated that areas of the Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington is the portion of the U.S. state of Washington east of the Cascade Range. The region contains the city of Spokane , the Tri-Cities, the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the fertile farmlands of the Yakima Valley and the...

 were warm enough for red wine production. Today it is the most widely grown red wine grape in the state and accounts for nearly one fifth of the state's entire production. It is widely planted throughout the Columbia Valley AVA
Columbia Valley AVA
The Columbia Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area which lies in the Columbia River Plateau, through much of central and southern Washington state, with a small section crossing into the neighboring state of Oregon. The AVA includes the drainage basin of the Columbia River and its tributaries...

 but has earned particular notice from plantings grown in Walla Walla
Walla Walla Valley AVA
The Walla Walla Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located within Washington State and extending partly into the northeastern corner of Oregon. The wine region is entirely included within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. The area is named after the Walla Walla people who lived along the...

, Red Mountain
Red Mountain AVA
The Red Mountain AVA is an American Viticultural Area that includes the land surrounding Red Mountain in Benton County, Washington. It is part of the Yakima Valley AVA, which in turn is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Located between Benton City and Richland, the Red Mountain AVA is the...

 and the Horse Heaven Hills
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
The Horse Heaven Hills AVA is an American Viticultural Area in southeastern Washington, and is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. The Horse Heaven Hills AVA borders the Yakima Valley AVA on the north and the Columbia River on the south. Elevations in this AVA range from above sea level in...

. Washington Merlots are noted for their deep color and balanced acidity. The state's climate lends itself towards long days and hours of sunshine with cool nights that contributes to a significant diurnal temperature variation
Diurnal temperature variation
Diurnal temperature variation is a meteorological term that relates to the variation in temperature that occurs from the highs of the day to the cool of nights.-Temperature lag:Temperature lag is an important factor in diurnal temperature variation...

 and produces wines with New World
New World wine
New World wines are those wines produced outside the traditional wine-growing areas of Europe, in particular from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.-Early wines in the Americas:...

 fruitiness and Old World
Old World wine
Old World wine refers primarily to wine made in Europe but can also include other regions of the Mediterranean basin with long histories of winemaking such as North Africa and the Near East. The phrase is often used in contrast to "New World wine" which refers primarily to wines from New World wine...

 structure. Other US regions producing significant quantities of Merlot include New York State
New York wine
New York wine refers to wine made from grapes grown in the U.S. state of New York. New York ranks third in grape production by volume after California and Washington. Eighty-three percent of New York's grape area is Vitis labrusca varieties...

's Long Island AVA, Virginia
Virginia wine
Virginia wine refers to wine made from grapes grown in the U.S. state of Virginia. Wine has been produced in the area since the early days of European colonization in the 17th century. Virginia has hot humid summers that can be challenging to viticulture. Since 2000, Chardonnay has been the most...

's Shenandoah Valley AVA
Shenandoah Valley AVA
The Shenandoah Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and West Virginia. The valley is bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachian and Allegheny Plateaus to the west. Most of the AVA is in Virignia, with a small portion in...

 and Oregon
Oregon wine
The state of Oregon in the United States has established an international reputation for its production of wine. Oregon has several different growing regions within the state's borders which are well-suited to the cultivation of grapes; additional regions straddle the border between Oregon and the...

's Rogue Valley AVA
Rogue Valley AVA
The Rogue Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in southern Oregon. The federal government approved this appellation in 1991. It is entirely contained within the larger Southern Oregon AVA and includes the drainage basin of the Rogue River and several tributaries, including the...

.

Other New World regions



In Argentina, Merlot plantings have been increasing in the Mendoza
Mendoza wine
The Mendoza Province is one of Argentina's most important wine regions, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the country's entire wine production. Located in the eastern foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua, vineyards are planted at the some of the highest altitudes in the world...

 region with the grape showing an affinity to the Tupungato
Tupungato
Tupungato, one of the highest mountains in South America, is a massive stratovolcano dating to Pleistocene times. It lies on the border between the Chilean Metropolitan Region and the , near a major international highway about 80 km east of Santiago, Chile. It is located about south of Monte...

 region of the Uco Valley
Uco Valley
Valley de Uco is a viticultural region southwest of Mendoza City in Argentina. It is widely considered one of the top wine regions in Mendoza, and all of Argentina. The average temperature is 14ºC and altitudes range from 900 meters to 1,200 meters above sea level...

. Argentine Merlots grown in the higher elevations of Tunpungato have shown a balance of ripe fruit, tannic structure and acidty. In New Zealand, plantings of Merlot have increased in the Hawke's Bay Region, particularly in Gimblett Gravels where the grape has shown the ability to produce Bordeaux style wine. The grape has been growing in favor among New Zealand producers due to its ability to ripen better, with less green flavors, than Cabernet Sauvignon. Other regions with significant plantings include Auckland
Auckland
The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

 and Marlborough. In Australia, some vineyards labeled as "Merlot" were discovered to actually be Cabernet Franc (a similar discovery was made in best vineyards of Californian Merlot producer Duckhorn Vineyards
Duckhorn Vineyards
Duckhorn Vineyards is a boutique winery in St. Helena, California, specializing in premium Merlot wines.-History:Founder Dan Duckhorn, a Santa Rosa native and Berkeley graduate, toured the Pomerol and Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region of France in the mid-1970s with Ric Forman, who as winemaker...

). In South Africa, plantings of Merlot has focused on cooler sites within the Paarl
Paarl
Paarl is a town with 191,013 inhabitants in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Its the third oldest European settlement in the Republic of South Africa and the largest town in the Cape Winelands. Due to the growth of the Mbekweni township, it is now a de facto urban unit with Wellington...

 and Stellenbosch regions.

Chile and Carménère


In Chile, Merlot thrives in the Apalta
Apalta
Apalta is a Chilean village, located northwest of Santa Cruz, Colchagua Province, O'Higgins Region....

 region of Colchagua Province
Colchagua Province
Colchagua Province is one of three provinces of the central Chilean region of O'Higgins . Its capital is San Fernando. It is bordered on the north by Cachapoal Province, on the east by the Argentine Republic, on the south by Curicó Province, and on the west by Cardenal Caro Province.-Geography and...

. It is also grown in significant quantities in Curicó
Curicó
Curicó , meaning "Black Waters" in Mapudungun , is the capital city of the Curicó Province, part of the Maule Region in Chile's central valley....

, Casablanca
Casablanca, Chile
Casablanca, meaning "white house", is a Chilean city and commune located in Valparaíso Province, Valparaíso Region.- Geography :The city of Casablanca is located on Route 68 between Santiago and the city of Valparaíso, at about 30 minutes southeast of Valparaíso and 50 minutes northwest of Santiago...

 and the Maipo Valley
Maipo River
Maipo River is the main river flowing through Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile. Its headwaters are on the west slope of Maipo volcano, in the Andes. Its most famous tributary is Mapocho River. The Maipo River is by far the major source of irrigation and potable water for the region.-Course:In...

. Until the early 1990s, the Chilean wine industry mistakenly sold a large quantity of wine made from the Carmenere grape as Merlot. Following the discovery that many Chilean vineyards thought to be planted with Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French word sauvage and blanc due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France., a possible descendant of savagnin...

 was actually Sauvignonasse
Sauvignon vert
Sauvignon vert is a white wine grape of the species Vitis vinifera. It is widely planted in Chile where it was historically mistaken for Sauvignon blanc...

, the owners of the Chilean winery Domaine Paul Bruno (who previously worked with Château Margaux
Château Margaux
Château Margaux, archaically La Mothe de Margaux, is a wine estate of Bordeaux wine, and was one of four wines to achieve Premier cru status in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. The estate's best wines are very expensive...

 and Château Cos d'Estournel
Château Cos d'Estournel
Château Cos d'Estournel is a winery in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. It is also the name of the red wine produced by this property...

) invited ampelographer
Ampelography
Ampelography is the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines, Vitis spp. Traditionally this has been done by comparing the shape and colour of the vine leaves and grape berries; more recently the study of vines has been revolutionised by DNA...

s to comb through their vineyards to make sure that their wines were properly identified. Genetic studies discovered that much of what had been grown as Merlot was actually Carménère
Carmenère
The Carménère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot....

, an old French variety that had gone largely extinct in France due to its poor resistance to phylloxera
Phylloxera
Grape phylloxera ; originally described in France as Phylloxera vastatrix; equated to the previously described Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, Phylloxera vitifoliae; commonly just called phylloxera is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America...

. While the vines, leaves and grapes look very similar, both grapes produce wines with distinct characteristics – Carménère being more strongly flavored with green pepper notes and Merlot having softer fruit with chocolate notes.

Mexico


In Mexico, Merlot is cultivated primarily in the Valle de Guadalupe
Guadalupe, Baja California
Valle de Guadalupe , or Francisco Zarco is a village located in the municipio of Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, 20 km north of the city of Ensenada...

 of Baja California
Baja California
Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

, the country's main wine producing area. Plantings have increased substantially since the 1980s, and cultivation has spread into the nearby areas of Ojos Negros and Santo Tomás.

Wines



As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, velvety wines with plum flavors. While Merlot wines tend to mature faster than Cabernet Sauvignon, some examples can continue to develop in the bottle for decades. There are three main styles of Merlot-a soft, fruity, smooth wine with very little tannins, a fruity wine with more tannic structure and, finally, a brawny, highly tannic style made in the profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the fruit notes commonly associated with Merlot include cassis
Blackcurrant
Blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum, is a species of Ribes berry native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia, and is a perennial....

, black and red cherries, blackberry
Blackberry
The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by any of several species in the Rubus genus of the Rosaceae family. The fruit is not a true berry; botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit, composed of small drupelets. The plants typically have biennial canes and perennial roots. Blackberries and...

, blueberry
Blueberry
Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium with dark-blue berries and are perennial...

, boysenberry
Boysenberry
A boysenberry is a cross between a European Raspberry , a Common Blackberry , and a Loganberry ....

, mulberry
Mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

, ollalieberry and plum
Plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

. Vegetable and earthy notes include black and green olives, cola nut, bell pepper
Bell pepper
Bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper or a pepper and capsicum , is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum . Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange and green. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as...

, fennel
Fennel
Fennel is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum . It is a member of the family Apiaceae . It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves...

, humus, leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

, mushrooms, rhubarb
Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a group of plants that belong to the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. They are herbaceous perennial plants growing from short, thick rhizomes. They have large leaves that are somewhat triangular-shaped with long fleshy petioles...

 and tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

. Floral and herbal notes commonly associated with Merlot include green and black tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

, eucalyptus
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Members of the genus dominate the tree flora of Australia...

, laurel
Bay Laurel
The bay laurel , also known as sweet bay, bay tree, true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree, or simply laurel, is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is the source of the bay leaf used in cooking...

, mint
Mentha
Mentha is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae . The species are not clearly distinct and estimates of the number of species varies from 13 to 18. Hybridization between some of the species occurs naturally...

, oregano
Oregano
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus – is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family . It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall,...

, pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

, rosemary
Rosemary
Rosemary, , is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs, and is one of two species in the genus Rosmarinus...

, sage
Common sage
Salvia officinalis is a small, perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world...

, sarsaparilla
Sarsaparilla
is a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems that is native to Central America. Common names include Sarsaparilla , Honduran Sarsaparilla, and Jamaican Sarsaparilla...

 and thyme
Thyme
Thyme is a culinary and medicinal herb of the genus Thymus.-History:Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage...

. When Merlot has spent significant time in oak, the wine may show notes of caramel, chocolate
Chocolate
Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC...

, coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

, coffee bean
Coffee bean
A coffee bean is a seed of a coffee plant. It is the pit inside the red or purple fruit often referred to as a cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are referred to as 'beans' because of their resemblance to true beans. The fruits - coffee cherries or coffee berries - most commonly contain two...

, dill weed, mocha
Cafe Mocha
A caffè mocha or café mochaAs elsewhere in coffee naming, the Italian caffè and French café are commonly found, as are the hyperforeignisms caffé and cafè, which confuse the accents. Also, in Italian, the correct spelling is Moka, used both for the city and the Moka pot. "Mocha", by contrast, is...

, molasses
Molasses
Molasses is a viscous by-product of the processing of sugar cane, grapes or sugar beets into sugar. The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaço, which ultimately comes from mel, the Latin word for "honey". The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or sugar beet,...

, smoke
Smoke
Smoke is a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis, together with the quantity of air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted by-product of fires , but may also be used for pest...

, vanilla
Vanilla
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, Flat-leaved Vanilla . The word vanilla derives from the Spanish word "", little pod...

 and walnut
Walnut
Juglans is a plant genus of the family Juglandaceae, the seeds of which are known as walnuts. They are deciduous trees, 10–40 meters tall , with pinnate leaves 200–900 millimetres long , with 5–25 leaflets; the shoots have chambered pith, a character shared with the wingnuts , but not the hickories...

.

White Merlot


White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel
White Zinfandel
White Zinfandel, often abbreviated as White Zin, is an off-dry to sweet, pink-colored blush wine. White Zinfandel is made from the Zinfandel wine grape, which would otherwise produce a bold and spicy red wine. As such, it is not a grape variety but a method of processing Zinfandel grapes...

. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must
Must
Must is freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. The solid portion of the must is called pomace; it typically makes up 7%–23% of the total weight of the must. Making must is the first step in winemaking...

 and is then fermented. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s, and should not be confused with wines made from the white mutant of the grape. In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made in the Ticino region but has been considered more a rosé.

White Merlot should not be confused with the grape variety Merlot Blanc, which is a cross between Merlot and Folle Blanche
Folle Blanche
Folle Blanche was the traditional grape variety of the Cognac and Armagnac regions of France. It is also known as Picpoule as well as Gros Plant and Enrageat Blanc...

.

Food pairing



In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and Northeastern Italy) share many of the same food pairing affinities with Pinot noir
Pinot Noir
Pinot noir is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot noir grapes...

 and go well with dishes like salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

, mushroom based dishes and greens like chard
Chard
Chard , is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking. While the leaves are always green, chard stalks vary in color. Chard has been bred to have highly nutrious leaves at the expense of the root...

 and radicchio
Radicchio
Radicchio is a leaf chicory , sometimes known as Italian chicory and is a perennial. It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted.- History :Humans have been using radicchio since ancient times...

. Light bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish
Shellfish
Shellfish is a culinary and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates used as food, including various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although most kinds of shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are found only in freshwater...

 like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon
Bacon
Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon . Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating...

 or prosciutto
Prosciutto
Prosciutto |ham]]) or Parma ham is a dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked; this style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto....

. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue veined cheeses
Blue cheese
Blue cheese is a general classification of cow's milk, sheep's milk, or goat's milk cheeses that have had cultures of the mold Penicillium added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue, blue-gray or blue-green mold, and carries a distinct smell, either from that or...

 that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine. The capsaicin
Capsaicin
Capsaicin 2CHCH=CH4CONHCH2C6H3-4--3- ) is the active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact...

s of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter.

External Links


Growing Merlot grapes in the U.S. - information from Cooperative Extension