For a period during the 1970s and through into the 80s, Merlot was the most popular wine in the world. Despite the devastation caused to the vineyards that grew the grape in the 1950s, plus a ban from the French Government on its growth following a number of rotten harvests, the wine managed to build a reputation based on its excellent quality, eventually forcing the grape to go back into production.
In recent years there has been something of a down trend in its popularity, but for Merlot that simply means that the wine is now just one of the most popular wines in the world, rather than being right at the top of the bunch. However, we are more than aware that there are many people out there who haven’t sampled this wonderful drink, so with that in mind we have created a small list of things that you need to know before you begin your adventures with Merlot.
- It Hails From Bordeaux
Although it is now possible to get Merlot from a number of producers throughout the world, with Americans in particular having a fondness for the wine, the original and best hails from the French region of Bordeaux.
Many of you may already know Bordeaux for the wine that bears the region’s name, but that’s not all that it brings to the table. Merlot is actually quite the big deal in its native land and there are many vineyards that are dedicated to its growth. As such, if you really want to get the true experience of what a good Merlot is all about, you need to go to the source and buy a bottle that hails straight from Bordeaux.
- Growing Merlot Was Banned In the 1970s
Things haven’t always been rosy for Merlot. Though the grape had a stellar reputation dating back for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it really started to gain in popularity. Unfortunately, it was during this period that Merlot harvests suffered a tragedy that took a very long time to recover from.
During the 1950s, France suffered a winter quite unlike any that had come before it. This great freeze not only ruined the Merlot crop during the period, but had a devastating effect on the grapes that came later. Throughout the 1960s, many of the Merlot crops that were being grown came out rotten and unsuitable for wine. In response to this issue, the French government completely banned the growing of the vine in the 1970s, partially to allow for the crop to recover and partially to protect the French wine industry.
Unfortunately, it was during this period that Merlot was growing to its peak in popularity, so shorter supplies started driving prices up. Eventually the French government have to give in to the inevitable and bring it back. Luckily, the crops started to become healthy again and Merlot was free to expand as a result.
- Climate Plays a Large Effect
As you would expect from the previous point, Merlot struggles in very cold conditions. However, that isn’t to say that it is impossible to grow in slightly cooler climates. It just produces a wine that is rather different to those that are produced from vineyards that are maintained in sunnier areas.
This is actually an important point to consider when purchasing a bottle of Merlot. If it hails from Bordeaux you can be sure that it has come from a slightly colder area and will thus exhibit dryer flavours than a variety that comes from a warmer area. This is why American Merlot tastes so different to the French original. Of course, the only way to know which one you prefer is to give both a try, so it is important to recognise where your particular bottle comes from so that you know where to source your Merlot in the future.
- It Used To Be A Blending Grape
Before it started gaining traction as a wine of its own, Merlot was known as one of the great blending grapes and was incorporated into many types of wine in an effort to provide balance. That still holds true today, with many different wines making use of Merlot in one form or another.
Of course, it has also managed to gain a good level of popularity on its own, but it just goes to show how versatile the grape actually is and why it has been a favourite of winemakers throughout the centuries. In fact, the odds are pretty high that you will have tasted the Merlot grape in one form or another if you’re a fan of red wine, even if you have never actually drank Merlot wine.
- It is Great With Food
There are some wines that only work with specific kinds of food, meaning that the wrong combination can actually ruin the meal and your evening as a result. Then, there are those wines that seem to be incredibly versatile and can thus be mixed with practically any type of food at all with great results.
Merlot falls into the latter category, as it can be consumed with so many different dishes. It goes well with practically any kind of meat, from tender chicken breasts through to rich and bloody steaks. It is also a surprisingly refreshing wine, which has led many to introduce it alongside the appetisers at dinner parties or as a refreshing outdoor wine during a barbeque.
The Final Word
Hopefully you now have a little bit more of an understanding about what goes into the making of a great Merlot and why you should take a little bit of time to give this remarkable variety of wine a try.
As usual, we are here to help you with any questions that you have and we also have a number of different types of Merlot available in our online store for you to choose from. Take a chance on a new wine and you may just find that you end up with a brand new favourite.