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With a Merlot, It Is the Structure that Counts

The Merlot red wine is one of the most popular grape varieties worldwide. It is mainly known for its soft structure and velvety finish. Merlot puts structure over fruit and aromas; yet this does not mean that such a wine tastes of nothing and only feels good. Red wines from Merlot grapes make for wines smelling and tasting of plums. Depending on their maturing state, they can also taste grassy. The younger the wine, the more a gourmet can detect the ‘green’ aromas. Together with Cabernet Sauvignon, the grape constitutes an essential element of the Bordeaux Blend. Both varieties harmonise and complement each other. A reason for this can be the fact that Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have one parent in common: Cabernet Franc. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are therefore half siblings; the former is much softer than its aristocratically appearing close relative. Not without reason, in America they say about the Merlot: ‘Cabernet without the pain’.

Merlot Grapes Ripen Quickly

Besides their taste and structure, Merlot grapes are popular especially as a winemaker’s insurance. They ripen quicker than a Cabernet and are therefore less prone for colder climates or sub-optimal soils. Yet, the fast ripening has its disadvantages. Merlot plants bud early, which makes them prone to frost and coulure. Coulure prone plants drop their fruits in a high amount. The yields are generally high, though; the red wine grape therefore is commonly considered to be the response for the high-yield white wine Chardonnay. Nevertheless, experienced winemakers do not wait too long to harvest Merlot. The variety is known for losing acidity quickly when it has too much time to ripen.

Merlot Produces Multifaceted Red Wines

As Merlot is rather known for a balanced and round structure than a distinctive taste, even connoisseurs have difficulties to distinguish it straightaway. Another reason is that the grape can create various wines. In the USA, Chile and Australia, the winemakers get soft, but strong wines, whilst the red wines from Italy, Argentina and South Africa share all the qualities yet are noticeably lighter. In South Africa, Merlot has experienced a phenomenal rise in the last twenty years. Formerly being a marginal phenomenon, it is now one of the most popular varieties of red wine, for winemakers and wine gourmets alike. The wine growers have created some interesting Merlot varieties and have sometimes used them for fantastic cuvees.

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