Flavor Profile. Merlot owes its historical role as a blending grape to its ability to lend softness to red wines that otherwise would be dominated by the stronger tannins in other red grapes. (Side Bar/Wine Bar – Tannins are biomolecules found, among other places, in the skins and seeds of red grapes. They are astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compounds that bind to proteins and various other organic compounds. When properly aged and balanced by other components in red wines, they are thought to lend structure and character to them.) Merlot grown in cooler climates can have bright, red fruit aromatics and flavors. In warmer climates, Merlot tends to offer dark fruit notes as well as cocoa and dark chocolate flavors.
Food Pairings. Merlot and Merlot blends can pair with a wide range of foods. They go well with sharper harder cheeses, and with Italian dishes that have red sauces. The most popular pairings with Merlot include grilled meats, stews and steaks.
Price. Merlots run the gamut from bargain wines costing less than $5 to well into the 4-digit range if we’re talking about Merlot within a prestigious wine from the Bordeaux region. Restaurants usually offer multiple Merlots, both by the glass and by the bottle. With its soft, fruit-oriented flavor profile, it can be a good safe choice when you’re not sure which reds your drinking or dining companions like; or when there’s no clear consensus on what to order.
So, when in doubt, make it Merlot, my main man.
Photos used under Creative Commons from MARIA ROSA FERRE, Paul Scott