Merlot is one of the five classic Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot), and is the foundation for high quality wines produced in the St. Emilion and Pomerol regions of France. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Merlot’s popularity among the wine drinking public in the U.S. led to price increases at the high end and the production of copious amounts of easy drinking, indistinguishable Merlot-based wines at the lower end. A backlash culminated in the 2004 movie Sideways, damaged Merlot’s reputation among the general wine drinking population. According to the Nielson Company, Merlot’s market share in U.S. supermarkets decreased from its peak of 12.4% in 2004 to 10.4% in 2006.
Merlot exhibits flavors similar to those found in Cabernet Sauvignon (black cherry, black currant, blackberry, herbs, spices) but is normally less tannic. In addition, Merlot’s acidity levels are typically lower than those found in Cabernet Sauvignon. The lower levels of tannin and acidity typically results in a softer, rounder mouth-feel.
California and Washington are Merlot leaders. Oregon, New York, Virginia, Idaho, Colorado, Texas and North Carolina have also demonstrated a nascent ability to produce high quality Merlot.
- What Makes Merlot Special (Varietal Focus Preview) - November 07, 2014 at Wine Business Blog
- A Brief History of Merlot - April 02, 2012 at Gundlach Bundschu