Merlot is a dark blue-hued grape variety well known for its soft, velvety texture and plummy fruit flavours. Renowned worldwide, it is used both for varietal wines and for blending with other varieties, most famously with Cabernet Sauvignon in the Bordeaux wine region of France. Merlot is actually one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine production.
Merlot grapes typically bear small, round and loose clusters. They ripen earlier than most other red wine grape variants, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon, which allows them to flourish in cooler climates where the latter struggles. This coupled with its relatively easy growth requirements has contributed to its widespread cultivation throughout the world.
The resulting Merlot wine exhibits a mesmerising bouquet combining fruits such as plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries, with elements of black tea and floral nuances, while the surfacing earthy and herbal tones make it a darling of the global wine fraternity. Depending on cultivation practices and vinification styles, the variety's consistency can range from light and fruity to full-bodied and tannic.
The Old World Merlots, particularly those from Bordeaux, are traditionally more structured with higher tannin and acidity levels, displaying more herbal and tobacco-like characteristics. Conversely, the New World Merlots, especially from regions such as Napa Valley in America, often present rich, opulent, chocolate-laced fruity flavours with a softer palate.
One of the considerable aspects of the Merlot grape is its versatility, it can be manipulated quite successfully in the vineyard to produce a range of styles, making it an integral part of the global winemaking repertoire. Paired with everything from meats to chocolate, Merlot has indeed established a distinct identity in the vast universe of wines. Prost!
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