Curious Small Sips #31: Merlot

Merlot grapes

Poor Merlot. Imagine being one of the greats of the winemaking industry, but nearly always being talked about in the context of either a) another grape or b) worse still, a movie.

First, let’s acknowledge Merlot for what it is: a grape used by winemakers globally to produce deep-red wines that are low on tannin and high on cherry/plummy/red-fruity notes on the nose and the tongue. You’ll taste some vanilla too if the wine has been aged in oak barrels. Well-made Merlots balance their acidity, tannins and fruitiness perfectly.

The big-name Merlots are from Bordeaux’s Right Bank, but you can get super Merlots anywhere it is grown. Chile’s reputation has become particularly good in recent years.


Because it is so popular, plenty of Merlot is made, including some pretty ordinary stuff. This was the case around 2004, when the movie Sideways was released. It has the infamous line spoken by a wine connoisseur, “I am not drinking any [naughty word] Merlot!” Sales of Merlot plummeted after the movie. Today, luckily, sales are back up because you can’t keep a good grape down.

Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in the powerhouse blend of the wine world. Merlot is Superman (full-bodied, mild-mannered, likeable) to Cabernet’s Sauvignon’s Batman (more aggressive, complex, rich and likes to spend time underground—cave or cellar, not fussed.)

Image by Cindy Wolfe from Pixabay

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