History and Origin
Merlot is an old French word for young blackbird and probably was named as such due to the color of the grape. Merlot has been around since sometime in the 1700s with the first recorded mention coming in 1784 by a Bordeaux official. One theory has it that this grape comes from Cabernet Franc. Because Merlot is susceptible to frost and does not age particularly well, it was used primarily as a blending varietal until modern techniques allowed for it to come into it's own. It is now among the top three planted varietals.
Merlot grapes are particular to cooler soils yet once they bud are very susceptible to a variety of things. Cool weather and birds for instance are one problem for the thin-skinned grapes. It is good to have the vines on a hill rather than at the base so there is not too much water.
Merlot is generally now referred to as Merlot, but this wine has quite a few synonyms. Begney, Seme de la Cana, Saint-Macaire, Vitraille, Seme dou Flube, Bigney Rouge, Plant Medoc, Semillon Rouge, Crabutet, Merlau, Merle Petite, Langon, and Medoc Noir are some of the names Merlot is also known by.
Generally Merlots are medium to dark red in color.
Many of the tastes can also be smelled in Merlot. Rose, violet, plum, black cherry, currant, caramel, bell pepper, and green olive are some of the smells commonly associated with Merlot.
Plums, black and red cherry, violets, orange, berries (blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry), olives, bell pepper, hummus, leather, mushrooms, tobacco, black tea, eucalyptus, mint, pine, rosemary, and sage are some of the flavor notes commonly picked up with Merlot. Oak aging can sometimes give it chocolate, caramel, coffee, coconut, vanilla, and walnut flavors.
Good With The Following Foods
Merlots can be made in a heavier style not dissimilar to Cabernet. These types of Merlot will pair well with items that pair well with Cabernets such as steaks or other smoky meats. The Merlots that have a slightly softer and fruitier profile go well with salmon or mushroom dishes that Pinot Noir would fit nicely with. The lightest versions of Merlot go well with shellfish and scallops, especially wrapped in bacon. Rich pastas, heavy chicken or other meats, and chocolate are some general pairings that can do well, depending of course on the type of Merlot. Spicy foods do not do well with Merlot as they bring out the tannins.
Merlot does best if served at approximately 64F.