Merlot received a bad press in the surprise hit movie ‘Sideways’. The major character condemned Merlot drinkers, and uttered the famous line “If anybody orders the merlot – I’m leaving”, despite enjoying largely merlot blends from Bordeaux. This caused a drop in US sales in favour of Pinot Noir.
Merlot is recognisable by its soft, plumy character, with flavours of plums and damsons and a distinctly velvety mouth feel. It is used in Bordeaux for more reliable early ripening and to soften the more robust Cabernet Sauvignon.
Outside of Bordeaux it makes great wine in Chile, although it can be confused with carmenere which ripens a little later. This can result in under-ripe Carmenere graes in a Merlot blend which tends to lead to bell pepper flavours in the wine.
Merlot can be a ‘dumbed down’ easy drinking, affordable wine, or a mortgage busting belter like Chateau Petrus. It’s flexible, reliable and surprising, so go ahead, order the Merlot with pride.