Merlot Wine

Merlot  wine

Merlot Wine

I can't think of anything more fashionable in the world of wine than Merlot. Or to be more specific: Pomerol from Bordeaux, which is mainly Merlot; California Merlot; and at a lower price point, Chilean Merlot.

Look around a busy smart restaurant and you can be sure there will be lots of swanky diners plumping for wines made from this grape. They may not know much about it, but they know what's hip and happening, and at the moment that means Merlot. Twenty years ago, it would have been unthinkable.

Merlot was considered Cabernet's poor cousin, an inferior blending partner in Bordeaux, and a workhorse grape, turning out less-than-thrilling bottles in other parts of the globe.So what has happened since? Why has Merlot undergone the sort of image transformation that Travolta was looking for when he met Tarantino? In part, it's due to the fact that many drinkers associate moderate red wine drinking with good health.

They are keen to glug on red, believing it is beneficial to their hearts (and there is evidence to back this up), but they don't want a tough, hefty wine like our big reds or a light, pale red with no guts.

Instead, they want plenty of ripe, juicy fruit - a real red, if you like - but one that tastes soft and easy when young and has few harsh tannins. And one that is widely available and grown all over the world. Merlot fits the bill.

One television programme on the health benefits of red wine, broadcast in America a few years ago, is widely considered responsible for giving Merlot's popularity a massive boost.
Then there's the fact that it tastes pretty darn delicious. Merlot has a thoroughly appealing personality. It may not 'wow' you like a glass of blockbuster Aussie Shiraz, but Merlot is beautifully supple, plump and lovable.

It has a friendly, plummy flavour, a smooth, rounded texture. It's too complex and serious to be described as 'simple', like, say, Gamay, but nevertheless it is an easy wine to enjoy. Winemakers adore it, too: it grows well in cooler spots than Cabernet and although it can make dilute, bland wine when poorly treated and over­cropped, it often obliges with generously fruity reds.

FRANCE I've probably made Merlot sound too jolly and one-dimensional. Anyone coming to the splendid, majestic wines of St-Emilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux, where a high proportion of the blend is Merlot, would beg to disagree.

These reds show Merlot at its most serious, concentrated and venerable (these particular examples probably belong in our next chapter, although they are not overtly tannic). In fact, if anyone ever tells you that Merlot counts for little in Bordeaux compared to King Cabernet, a) tell them that it is more widely planted than Cabernet, and b) get them a glass of one of the finest Pomerols and make them drink their words.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot's great blending partner, does indeed hold sway in the Medoc region of France, where its austere cassis and tannin character is fleshed out by the more lush and fruity Merlot component.

But on the 'right bank' regions of the Libournais area, and especially its appellations of St-Emilion and Pomerol, Merlot takes over, contributing sixty to one hundred percent of the blend.

The rest is usually Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines have a softer, smoother, even more velvety texture than the Cabernet-heavy Medoc wines, and they are unusually rich, inky and intense in ripe fruit flavour and have a extra sheen of oak from new barrel- ageing to round them off and add complexity.

They age well for decades, yet they are more approachable when young than old

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