Ah... Merlot! I love that grape for wines!
It’s funny but a lot of people say “I hate Merlot wine”... which is usually just before or after they say “I hate Chardonnay” (but that’s another blog post). I can never figure out why... because to me it’s like saying “I hate the colour blue... or red... or yellow... or green.” Just as there are so many different shades of colours, there are an incredible number of different “flavours” of Merlot.
I know that Merlot wine took a huge beating after the movie Sideways came out... but come on, that was in 2004 – a LONG time ago! Merlot is one of the great Bordeaux wine varieties, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It can be made into wine by itself or blended with any of these grapes (but most often with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) and presented as a “Bordeaux blend”.
So why don’t people like Merlot? Or why DO they? The bottom line – Merlot makes “softer” wine than Cabernet Sauvignon does. Cabernet wine tends to be more acidic and more powerful, so when Merlot grapes are added to Cabernet Sauvignon, the best of both grapes can come out – the wine has the “backbone” of Cabernet Sauvignon and the “softness” of Merlot. Some people like softer wines and some don’t: But that’s short-changing this grape.
I love a good Merlot wine that has been treated with care – perhaps aged in oak for a while. There are many types of Merlot wines: there’s the light and easily quaffable type and then there’s soft and voluptuous Merlot without a lot of tannins, and lastly there is serious Cabernet Merlot blended to make it a structured wine to pair with food.
If you’re looking for a sipping wine, go for the light and quaffable. Or try a “voluptuous” Merlot that you can pair with tomato-based recipes, chicken and earthy vegetables like mushrooms (see below for some great recipes). I love pairing a Merlot wine with one of my crock-pot, beef-based casseroles. Of course, there’s always steak and hamburgers!
Aside from Bordeaux, Merlot is also grown in Provence and other parts of France, Spain (including Catalunya) and in among many other regions. And everyone creates wine from Merlot that’s different from the one made in the region “next door”. That’s the beauty of Merlot wines: so much personality!
So give Merlot a break. If you haven’t tried it recently, try it now. Buy several bottles from different regions, or buy a blend. Spend a little less on one bottle and a little more on another. Experiment.
And see if your opinion of Merlot changes. There’s a LOT to love about this noble wine grape that makes luscious glass of fine wine.
RECIPE PAIRINGS FOR MERLOT WINE:
Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto (by Oh She Glows)
Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup (by Country Living)
Herbed Mushroom Brioche (by The Food Network)