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The Merlot grape is a close cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon in many respects.  It is lower in tannins and makes wines that mature faster and are softer in texture.  Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in order to soften the blend. At its best, Merlot makes a wine that is dry, rich in flavor and smooth as it finishes in your throat. At its worst, Merlot makes wine that is dry but thin in taste and texture, and not very pleasant to consume. Most of what you will come across are likely to be of pretty good quality.

Merlot Grape Cluster
Merlot is able to mature in regions that are cooler than those required for Cabernet Sauvignon.  Merlot is more susceptible to fungus and mold diseases and therefore a bit harder to grow.  Merlot varies widely in quality around the world depending on location and producer.  This variety was first known for its success in the Saint Emilion and Pomerol areas of BordeauxChateau Petrus is the stellar example of fine Merlot.

Merlot usually has ripe berry components in the bouquet.  Its wines tend to be soft, fruity and smooth in texture.  Select Merlots can have long aging potential but most are ready to consume in 4 to 8 years. Merlot is usually bottled in a Bordeaux (high shouldered) bottle.

Merlot is enjoying a surge in popularity and additional acreage is being planted in many major producing regions.  It came to California in the mid-1860s and has become one of the most popular wines since its surge in popularity in the 1990s.

Merlot should be served slightly below room temperature. When alcohol reaches 74 degrees F., it is likely to cause an unpleasant sharpness in the taste. Cooling the bottle for 15 or 20 minutes (but not much longer) in a refrigerator can be a good way to reach the desired serving temperature.