Poor little Merlot is a grape that has been subject to a lot of abuse. Most famously in the wine tasting road trip film “Sideways” where the lead character Miles says “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving”.
And yes, Miles had a point. Merlot can be a grape lacking defining points, it is smooth, soft and fruity; but quaffable and uncomplex. Yet one of the priciest wines in the world Petrus that costs on average $2600 a bottle is made mostly of Merlot. So how can that be?
Well Merlot is a grape that in the sunny climes of California or Australia grows in abundance and produces those smooth juicy reds; lets call them the Cadbury’s chocolate of wine. Then if you take older vineyards, in a cooler climate, like the classic region Bordeaux, the grape has to fight that little harder to yield. And then it seems to produce heavenly wines with all the juicy fruit plus density and complexity; let’s call this Lindt.
So let’s not dismiss poor Merlot. Give the poor grape another chance.
An early ripening grape which means it can easily turn to jammy flavours if not picked at the right moment. Moderate in tannin and acidity, so generally smooth tasting. Has pyrazine characters which means it can have a sense of menthol or green pepper in aroma or flavour. Works well with oak which gives it a mocha richness.
Grenache/Garnacha, Cabernet, Shiraz, Malbec
France: Bordeaux (Right bank/St Emilion or Pomerol for dominance in blends)
California: Napa Valley, Washington State
Australasia: Hawkes Bay (New Zealand), Margaret River (Australia)
Pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, burritos, bolognese or shepherd’s pie