Merlot is one of the most grown red wine varieties worldwide. It has been cultivated since the 18th century in France yet has only been grown in the Netherlands recently. 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 per unit volume. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar content and lower malic acid. Water stress is important to the vine with it thriving in well-drained soil more so than at base of a slope. Pruning is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced with some producing believing it is best to prune the vine “short” (cutting back to only a few buds). Wines can be vinified as a single grape variety or as a cuvée with other red varieties and aged in barriques.
While Merlot flavor does vary dependent upon where it’s grown climate-wise, you’ll typically get notes of ripe blue, black and red fruit. These tasting notes are often backed by undertones of coco, vanilla and various earth tones. A simple Merlot can be enjoyed without any culinary accompaniment or with lighter dishes. Because of Merlot’s lighter tannin structure, you typically don’t get an intense sensation of astringency in your mouth. This makes Merlot fun to pair with softer poultry and meats on the sweet or savory side.
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