Wine Profile: Merlot

“Daddy, does ‘Lego’ have a silent ‘t’ like ‘merlot?”

From ‘Overheard in Waitrose’

As the weather cools, red wines are once again top of my wine list, and having recently enjoyed a particularly pleasant Merlot by New Zealand label ‘Tohu’, I thought I’d bring you a profile of this smooth, drinkable customer.

Merlot wine folly
Merlot, (c) Wine Folly

Merlot is one of the noble grapes and the traditional companion of the heavier, darker Cabernet Sauvignon (another of my particular favourites and the place, you may recall, where the Culture Project started) in French Bordeaux. I’m told it’s popular as a varietal in the USA (and, presumably, in the UK where it’s apparently causing spelling confusion for the children of the well-heeled), and, like Pinot Gris, it’s growing in popularity with vineyards here as New Zealand branches out from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Merlot is a red wine, usually cherry or brick-red in colour, sometimes with an orange tinge. It is smooth and medium bodied with medium tannins and acidity, and has a typical ABV of anywhere from 12% to 15%. It typically has flavours of black cherry, raspberry and plum, with earthy and oaky notes and often a hint of spice.

Merlot can be aged for 5-10 years, depending on the quality, and should be served warm (relatively speaking), at around 15C. It pairs well with most meats, and roasted vegetables, but doesn’t pair well with fish or stand up well to spices.

Merlot grapes
Merlot grapes on the vine.

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

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