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Merlot Wine Tasting

Smooth Tasting Merlot

Think of velvet and fruit combined and you'll be pretty close to Merlot. Merlot is a red that is approachable for even the novice. It lacks the harsh tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon, is fruitier in general (noted as plumy) and has a shorter maturation period. It is predominantly described as smooth and fleshy.

Found all over the world, the predominate producers come from Bordeaux St. Emillion, Pomerol, Italy, Switzerland, California, New York State Long Island, Washington State and Chile. Don't expect all of the versions to be straight Merlot. Merlot lends itself to blending well because it smooths out the harsh tannins of many of the bolder wines. For old world wines, Merlot is always found in combination. In France, it is like an insurance policy. Their blends get higher in Merlot during a bad season for Cabernet because it is generally picked earlier before trouble starts. Only one wine from France is 99% Merlot and is one of the world's most expensive wines, Chateau Petrus from Pomerol. In Chile there is no telling if you are really drinking 99% of any varietal because of their lackadaisical labeling laws.

If you are dabbling with a Bordeaux wine, you are drinking Merlot blended to perfection. This is where your geography lessons really come in handy. Bordeaux is blend wine, combining Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (a few others for good measures but let's not complicate things). The two grapes thrive under different climates however and here's where knowledge of the land comes in handy. The Boudeaux hailing from the left bank have a higher proportion of Cabernet while the right bank hails higher in Merlot. Get your maps out folks. It's all about what grows better on the coastal side with forests and fog (left) or has an unprotected shorter growing season (right). What you get is a beautiful wine that collectors go nuts over.

So back here in the New World, Merlot has had its ups and downs but definitely stands on its own now. Napa Valley vintners were the first to start recognizing Merlot as a stand alone grape. Because it is a fruitier wine, it balances well as a mid-level intensity wine. This means that it lacks the boldness of a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel and is softer and rounder on the palette.

A word of caution however with Merlot. Where this grape is planted makes all the difference. A GOOD Merlot should be soft and full, but many of the wines produced in California are harsher than they should be. Again with the geography? Yes. This is a geographically sensitive grape. A Merlot from a hot area has all the softness of a knife. Look for coastal regions. This is one of the reasons Washington State (9check out Walla Walla) and Long Island have been having some success with the varietal so keep that in mind when evaluating your Merlot.

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Happy tasting and we'll see you at!

Darcy & Stacy

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