Merlot wines. Origins, Development & Recommendations
THE BEST WINES OBTAINED FROM THE MERLOT GRAPE VARIETY
On November 7th, the International Merlot Grape Day is celebrated all over the world, a tribute to one of the noblest and most elegant grape varieties in the world, but also one of the most widespread.
Origins of the Merlot Grape
Originally from France, Merlot is, after Cabernet Sauvignon, the grape variety with the largest area of vineyards planted in the world, a total of 270,000 hectares of land, all spread across different countries.
The Merlot grape variety originates in the southwest of France, specifically in the Bordeaux region, and is currently one of its main and traditional varieties. This area has produced the best Merlot wines in history; the wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion are famous, including one of the most famous in the world, Petrus, made with ninety-five per cent Merlot.
Bordeaux is famous for its blends of Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc, precisely because in the past, the Merlot grape variety was considered a variety with little body and little character, but also because the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc was perfect.
The winemakers called it the chameleon variety because, no matter where it was grown, it developed differently, offering different shades.
In the 1980s, winemakers began to realize that Merlot grapes were a variety that offered wines with less acidity and a much lighter structure, which made these wines very popular for consumption. Also, it had a great harmony between fruit and acidity. So, the wines resulted in a unique aftertaste.
But they also saw that Merlot was a variety that, although not as acidic as the others, had a great ageing power. It ages well on its own in French oak barrels and does not lose its structure, which was a great advantage, because it obtained very subtle and delicate balsamic and spicy notes, which come from wood and the fried inside of the barrel. That's why today we have cask-aged Merlot wines that are truly elegant and refined.
On the market, we find single-variety Merlot, but also with a blend that contains a very small percentage of other varieties, sometimes only five per cent of another grape variety. This is because when the variety spread to the rest of the world, many winemakers began to make them in larger proportions.
When they saw that the results were good and that the wines obtained only from Merlot were very easy to drink and very silky on the palate, meaning they were pleasant and very elegant wines, the winemakers decided to make single-variety wines. These adjectives are still attributed today to wines obtained mainly from Merlot grapes.
The Merlot grape is a variety that has beautiful blackberries with bluish reflections, hence the name of this variety, " merle " in French means blackbird. These small birds with bluish-black plumage, ate the grapes when they started to ripen because the Merlot variety is one of the first grape varieties of the season to ripen.
A curious detail is that some winemakers let it ripen more than usual to obtain more fruity wines, also denser and with more volume, and among its aromas are more noticeable black fruits such as blackberries and figs.
The Merlot variety adapts very well to the environment in which it is planted, and its resistance to harsh climates, because it withstands the cold very well, makes it a variety with a strong presence in areas of France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, but also in countries from the Balkans, such as Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, but also in Romania, where it divides the spotlight with Cabernet Sauvignon.
In Spain, we can find it in La Mancha, Navarra, Catalonia, Aragon and Ribera de Duero, in some of these designations of origin more present than in others. In Spain, this variety is highly valued for its versatility when mixed with other varieties and for the low acidity, it offers. This is essential in the tempranillo or fine-grained blends of Ribera de Duero, as it softens them without losing their aromatic load.
In addition, the size of its bunches is not excessively large and it is easy to pick by hand, which facilitates manual harvesting because it does not have too much volume or weight.
Another detail of the Merlot grape variety is that its skin is thicker, so a load of phenols, i.e the antioxidants we talked about in previous articles, is much higher, giving healthier properties to the wine.
Indeed, the pulp does not have strong pigmentation, so the wines obtained with this variety will not be as dark in colour as those obtained with Tempranillo or Cabernet Sauvignon, but will have a more ruby red colour.
In our online store, we have a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot, twelve months old, from Bodega Pago de Cirsus, called Vendimia Seleccionada. Pago de Circus is a castle-shaped winery in Navarra that houses a beautiful hotel and where we were lucky enough to see their fantastic barrel room, the music that the monks listened to in the past, where today the best wines of the house rest.
The selected vintage comes from Finca Bolandin, a wine with velvety tannin, with a structure and balance typical of the best Pago wines.
In Catalonia, under the Empordà designation of origin, we would like to highlight a wine from the Roig Parals winery, made in Bordeaux style, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 13 months in French oak barrels, cherry red, with ruby shades, very aromatic, with many red and black fruits, with notes of burn and balsamic from the barrel.
A wine that surprises us when tasting for its large structure, a round and very balanced wine that can accompany a game stew or red meats so appetizing in autumn.
Another blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that we also find in the DO Empordà is Proposit, a wine from the Viniríc winery, located in the opposite location in the same region, but with an altitude difference of four hundred meters and a warmer climate.
The wine has a beautiful cherry red colour, and violet aromas, an aromatic characteristic present in wines made with Merlot. The wine was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and is very harmonious, and silky due to its ripe tannins and very elegance.
In our online store, you will find a large selection of Spanish and international wines that include the Merlot grape variety. Discover our wines here!
We invite you to celebrate with us the International Merlot Dayby drinking a glass of Merlot wine, always in moderation!
Happy Merlot Day and see you next time, wine lovers!