Merlot is often considered a “beginner wine” because it is fruity, smooth, and easy to drink. But don’t let its reputation fool you – Merlot can be complex and interesting, with flavors that vary depending on the region it’s from. In this blog, we’ll discuss the history of Merlot, its flavor profile, and some suggested food pairings just in time for International Merlot Day on November 7. We’ll also discuss RayLen Vineyards’ much anticipated 2020 Merlot release!
History of Merlot Wine
Merlot is a red wine grape that is native to the Bordeaux region of France. It is believed that the first time Merlot was ever mentioned was in 1783. It was spelled “Merlau” and mentioned in a Bordeaux official’s papers where it noted the grape “…makes a black and excellent wine, productive in good soil.” It quickly became one of the most popular grapes in Bordeaux.
In the 1990s, Merlot started to gain popularity in the United States. Red wine consumption, in general, had increased in the US following the airing of the 60 Minutes report in 1991 titled “The French Paradox.” The segment delved into the potential health benefits of red wine, particularly looking at how the French and their consumption of red wine may be responsible for their low incidence of cardiac disease. Americans jumped on the bandwagon and red wine consumption in the United States rapidly increased over a short period of time.
The popularity of Merlot in particular is believed to be in part from the relative ease in pronouncing the name as well as its softer, fruity profile that made it more approachable to beginner wine drinkers.
Warm vs Cool Climate Merlot
When Merlot wine is produced in warmer climates, the wines tend to be more fruity with refined, pin-cushion tannins. Because of the boldness of these wines, you’ll often find they age in oak which adds vanilla, chocolate, and smoky cedar notes. Merlot from cooler climates, on the other hand, tends to be more structured, with earthy flavors. The taste of cool climate Merlot can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.
In terms of growing the grape, American winemakers found that Merlot grapes thrived in warm climates like California, and they began producing their own styles of Merlot. These wines are often fruitier and less tannic than their French counterparts. Merlot is a leading variety in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina because of the ideal climate and terroir for producing the grape.
Merlot wines are typically dry, with moderate acidity and low tannins. As mentioned earlier, the flavor profile of Merlot wines can vary depending on the region they’re from. French Merlots tend to be more subtle, with flavors of blackberry, plum, and cocoa. American Merlots are often fruitier, with flavors of cherry, raspberry, and vanilla. North Carolina Merlots tend to fall somewhere in between, with a balance of fruit and earthy flavors.
Merlot is a versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. For a classic combination, try pairing Merlot with grilled steak or lamb chops. The fruitiness of the wine will complement the rich flavors of the meat. If you’re looking for something a little different, try pairing Merlot with roasted vegetables like beets, carrots, and potatoes. The earthy flavors of the vegetables will bring out the best in the wine.
The fall season is the perfect time to enjoy a glass of Merlot. That is because the cool weather brings out the best in this particular wine. When it is too warm, Merlot can taste a bit dull. However, when the temperature starts to drop, Merlot comes into its own. The flavors of the wine become more pronounced and complex, making it the perfect choice for a fall evening.
How Should I Serve Merlot?
The ideal way to serve Merlot is at cellar temperature, which is between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. To achieve this temperature, simply take the wine out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to drink it. If you don’t have time to let the wine warm up, that’s okay – just give it a few extra minutes to breathe before serving.
When it comes to glassware, there are a few different options that will work well for Merlot. The most important thing is to choose a glass with a wide bowl, which will allow the wine to breathe. A standard red wine glass or a Bordeaux glass are both good choices.
Celebrate International Merlot Day on November 7th
International Merlot Day takes place every year on November 7. This day is dedicated to celebrating all things Merlot, from the grape itself to the wines made from it. On this day, wine drinkers around the world come together to enjoy a glass (or two!) of their favorite Merlot. Whether you’re a fan of French Merlots or American Merlots, this is the perfect day to enjoy a glass of your favorite wine.
RayLen Vineyards’ 2020 Merlot Release
RayLen Vineyards is excited to announce the release of our 2020 Merlot! Released on October 14, 2022, this wine is one of the varietals grown in our vineyards in Mocksville, NC, and it showcases the best of what North Carolina has to offer. The climate in Mocksville is perfect for growing Merlot grapes – not too hot, and not too cold. As a result, our Merlot has beautiful flavors of stewed cherry and rhubarb that make it the perfect choice for fall. You’ll also note subtle hints of soft oak and vanilla behind its deep garnet color. RayLen Vineyards’ 2020 Merlot is the perfect drinkable wine for the upcoming holiday season. Be sure to pick up a bottle (or two!) today!