When did you last drink a glass of Merlot wine? For most wine drinkers it was most likely some time ago, if at all.
The popularity of Merlot wine started to fall off in the late 1990s into the mid 2000s. This decline took place as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir grew in popularity and surpassed Merlot. Sales of the wine drove to much lower levels than any other time in the history of the wine. This was especially true of California Merlots. This condition continues today, although Merlot wines are in the middle of a strong comeback.
The Merlot wine comeback doesn’t mean that Cabernet and Pinot Noir are lowering in popularity. In fact, the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon continues to skyrocket. The price of Cabernet grapes is increasing to record levels, which is driving bottle prices upward.
Due to this tremendous increase in the growth of Cabernet California vineyards planted with grape vines other than Cabernet and Pinot Noir are being torn out and replaced with Cabernet vines. At the beginning of the downturn of Merlot, vineyards started replacing Merlot vines as well. Today Merlot vineyards seemed to have stabilized as Merlot’s popularity grows.
The situation in the U.S. is ironic since Merlot, at least in the Bordeaux region of France, is one of the premier wines of right bank wines. Some of the most highly sought-after wines in the world are blended from Merlot grapes. The French Bordeaux wine Château Pétrus, made primarily from Merlot, is one of the most sought-after Bordeaux wines in the world and can cost thousands of dollars per bottle in a good year.
Like most serious wine drinkers I can’t say I have ever had a desire to cellar many Merlot wines. Although I do have some, I don’t have very many bottles or specific producers Merlots. So what has prompted my interest in Merlot and the writing of this article? Last year when I was in Napa Valley making our 2016 vintage Glenwood Cellars wines, I was offered the opportunity to taste and purchase some Merlot wine. Frankly, I was surprised at how good it tasted. It was delicious and so I decided to purchase the wine, and with some tweaking, we blended the very first Glenwood Cellars Merlot wine. It is now bottled and will be released in the late summer months of this year (more information will be released in a later blog). The whole experience has pushed me to try other Merlots and I am certainly not sorry that I have.
Merlot is a red wine grape with historic ties to France which it is said to date back to the late 1700s. It is the most widely planted red wine grape in France and is also popular in Italy, Chile, Argentina and Australia. In the United States it is grown on the West Coast, primarily in California and Washington. It is one of the top five planted grapes around the world.
Because of its smoothness and low tannins it is widely used as a blending grape to soften more tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is a smooth, rounded, easy drinking wine that I believe fits well between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Merlot’s flavor profile generally offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, chocolate, plums, blue berries and some herbs. Merlot is a medium-body wine with a finish that offers smooth acidity and soft tannins.
It pairs well with such foods as lighter meats, shellfish, salmon and mushroom dishes. Personally I have found that it pairs well with hamburgers and French fries. Due to its smoothness, it drinks well at lunch or dinner.
I highly recommend that you begin tasting Merlots on a regular basis. Like all other wines, when you find some you like be sure to add them to your wine collection. Merlots age well and should be drinkable for 10-plus years.
Next LEX 530 Wine Dinner
Our next wine club dinner is planned for Wednesday, May 29, 2019, and will have a Spring theme. I have decided to pair our Glenwood Cellars and Tiedemann wines with the various courses. Click here to look at the menu and pairings, and here to buy your tickets to this exciting event.
June LEX 530 Wine Dinner
We are changing locations for our June wine dinner to be with our wine club partner: Uptown Kitchen in Granger, Ind. The event will be held on Friday, June 21, 2019. The theme is Steak and Oysters. Information on this dinner will be forthcoming.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- May 3 – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9 – World Moscato Day
- May 23 – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25 – National Wine Day
- June 8 – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 21 – Lambrusco Day
- August 1 – International Albariño Day
- August 4 – National White Wine Day
- August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
- August 29 – International Cabernet Day
- September 20 – International Grenache Day
- November 7 – International Merlot Day
- November 14 – International Tempranillo Day
- November 20 – International Zinfandel Day
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day
- December 31 – National Champagne Day