Ok fellow vinophiles. It’s time to remember we live in a (very) post-Sideways world. Merlot is, in fact, delicious; perfect for the weather right now; and besides, those Sideways guys might have had pinot envy to spare, but about merlot, they were clueless.
Here’s a short primer on merlot, our wine of the month.
• Merlot comes in essentially two versions: 1) cheap and generic (best to be avoided) and 2) delicious and a little more pricey. Go with the latter. With this varietal, you really get what you pay for.
• Merlot’s ancestral home is the Bordeaux region of France where it is the most planted grape (that’s right—merlot; not cabernet sauvignon).
• Still, top merlot and top cabernet sauvignon share many similarities of structure and flavor. In a blind tasting, few pros can tell the top versions apart.
• A great merlot’s flavors will often encompass dried cherries, plums, saddle leather, cocoa, mocha, blackberry, black currant, pencil lead, and sometimes a touch of spice.
• Both merlot and cabernet sauvignon share the same genetic father—cabernet franc.
• Merlot is a French colloquial word meaning “little blackbird.”
• Because top merlot, like cabernet, has a considerable amount of tannin, it is impressive and structured on the palate. It’s a perfect wine for red meat and roasts.
• California and Washington State are the leading U.S. states for merlot, although some delicious examples are made in New York State on Long Island. In Europe, the grape is famous in Bordeaux, France, and in northeastern Italy.