Character:
Merlot is a juicy, supple, medium bodied wine.  It is generously fruity, and tends to make wines that are round in texture and have a certain fleshy, plump character – like being wrapped in a soft duvet.  Precisely because of its generous and round nature, Merlot is grown and enjoyed the world over and is often blended with other varieties to fill out and soften the edges of the finished wine.  Merlot would be the kind of grape that would always be invited to parties because it’s so friendly, gregarious and generous.

Merlot has a flavour reminiscent of plums, damsons and fruitcake.  You will maybe find yourself thinking of Christmas and plum pudding when you smell it.  The tannins should be firm enough to give the wine structure, but they should be hidden underneath the flesh of the wine.

Best areas:
Merlot’s spiritual home is the right bank of Bordeaux.  St Emilion and Pomerol wines are all predominantly Merlot but they will usually have some Cabernet Franc and perhaps some Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend too.  Each variety adds its own voice to the choir so the finished sound will be harmonious and full.

Outside of Bordeaux you will find Merlot virtually everywhere with enough sunshine to ripen the grapes.  Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon so it is suited to a broader range of climates.  Merlot is found in Italy, Spain, Chile, South Africa, California, Australia, New Zealand and ranges in quality from simple, everyday drinking wines to serious wines with enormous ageing potential. 

Food matching:
Soft, fruity Merlot with gentle tannins works very well with tomato based Italian dishes (lasagne, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza), roast chicken and savoury mushroom and parmesan dishes.  A soft Merlot will also work with more robust meat that has been cooked for a long time or is in a rich sauce such as ribs or casseroles.  It is also great with moussaka and vegetarian dishes featuring aubergine and courgette.  Merlot is also a great wine to drink with slightly spicy tomato based curries.

With better quality, more structured Merlot wines drink with Beef Wellington, roast duck, grilled chops or roast lamb.

Examples:
Soft and fruity style –

DSR Mistral Merlot
Grapillon d’Or Merlot
Cefiro Merlot
Norte Chico Merlot

Medium
Nimbus Merlot
Porcupine Ridge Merlot
Ch Mylord
Ch Macquin

Serious
Gravette de Certan 2006
Larcis Ducasse 2007
Roc de Cambes 2009
Hospitalet de Gazin 2009