This month, our fascination with merlot has lead us to unearth the origins and interesting facts about this much loved grape variety.
The origins of Merlot
The first recorded mention of Merlot was made in 19th Century France though it only started gaining popularity in the 1950s. Today Merlot is one of the most popular wines around the world though it did not start out like that. In its beginnings, winemakers considered the grape to be a “secondary” grape and that Merlot was therefore only best suited for blending and not to be enjoyed as a stand alone varietal.
However it can be defended that, at the time, Merlot was competing with one of the most highly allocated wines in the world, Bordeaux. Researchers at the University of California at Davis made the discovery that the Merlot grape is a progeny of the Cabernet Franc grape. Its sibling grapes include Carmenere and Malbec. Carmenere and Malbec were once popular in France, but both varietals were also lost in the frost of 1956. By 2010, Merlot jumped to second place as the world’s most widely planted grape, second to Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Characterisitics of Merlot Wine
In character, Merlot offers flavours of chocolate, plums, licorice, black cherries, blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries as well as jam, which depends on the levels of ripeness the fruit was allowed to achieve. It is round, fleshy and can be opulent in texture.
Fruits – plum, cherry, blackcurrant
Lightly oaked – vanilla, coconut
Heavily oaked – smoke, tar, oak
Floral – violet and rose
Spices – mint, caramel, cloves, bay leaves
Bottle age – mushroom, earth, coffee, leather, cigar