October is officially Merlot Month (aka #MerlotMe on Twitter) which celebrates the long awaited comeback of this most maligned grape variety. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk about this happy occasion recently with John Favole and the team at WPTV Channel 5.
While everyone likes to blame the 2004 movie Sideways for Merlot’s vinous demise, Miles’ rant was just the final nail in the grape’s coffin at the time. The truth is, its popularity had been declining for awhile. At the height of Merlot’s fame, demand was so great some growers were pulling up other, less-profitable vines in order to make room for more of it. This meant planting Merlot vines in less than optimal sites, resulting in the production of poor quality wine. Unfortunately, it became more about quantity than quality. Now, after almost a decade of vinous obscurity, it’s the quality vineyards tended by the true Merlot lovers that mostly remain.
But what’s so great about Merlot anyway and WHY are we celebrating it with Merlot Month? For those who are newbies or just need a reminder, on the likeability scale, Merlot rates pretty high! Known for its plush, lush notes of cherry, plum and chocolate and soft, supple tannins…frankly, what’s NOT to like? It’s inherent characteristics also make it approachable at a young age, unlike its vinous counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape known for aggressive tannins and bold flavors which often needs time in the bottle to soften. While both grapes make delicious varietal wines, the two also complement each other beautifully which is why they are often blended together.
While Merlot was officially “born” in France and is still the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, wonderful examples of the wine can be found in many countries across the globe including Italy, Australia, Chile and the US. Each country imparts its own unique stamp on this grape which can be somewhat of a chameleon depending on where it’s grown. In cooler climates, Merlot is known for exhibiting notes of black and blue fruit, minerals, licorice and herbs. Warmer climates accentuate the grape’s fruitiness, highlighting cherry, candied berry, mocha, spice and soft, sweet tannins.
When it comes to food, due to its supple, fruity nature, Merlot pairs wonderfully with a variety of different dishes. Its hearty texture makes it perfect for serving with dishes such as hard cheeses, cheeseburgers, stews, roasted chicken and steak. Those with a sweet tooth also enjoy it with chocolate-based desserts which complement its lush, fruity tendencies.
I hope you enjoy Merlot Month and continue to enjoy this delicious grape all season long! Please check out our list below of our recommended wines at a variety of different price points. If you’d like to watch the entire WPTV segment, please scroll down to the video below or simply click here. Also, if there’s a particular brand of Merlot you enjoy I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section below. Be sure to share your vinous exploits on Twitter using the hashtag #MerlotMe and check out what other wine lovers are drinking as well.
1.) Falesco Merlot Tellus, Umbria, Italy, 2013 ($14)
2.) Mollydooker Merlot The Scooter, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2013 ($25)
3.) Peju Province Merlot, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($35)
4.) Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($50)
5.) Mt. Brave Merlot Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($75)
6.) La Jota Merlot Howell Mountain, Napa, CA, 2013 ($80)