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Merlot: The Red for Every Wine Drinker

Credit: Jack Andersen/Getty

OVERVIEW Merlot is an easy grape to grow and the most extensively grown in France's Bordeaux region. Loved by winemakers and consumers alike for its dynamic range of character traits, merlot grapes are often terrific team players in the context of blends, but also stand strong as an exceptional solo act. I really dig merlot because there's a bottle for every wine drinker--full-bodied and full of intriguing complexity for the experienced palate and some more delicate and defined by dark jammy notes for the more casual sippers.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Go for bottles from France's Bordeaux region, Chile, Argentina, Italy, California, and Washington.

FLAVOR PROFILE Merlot wines produced with grapes grown in warmer regions (like California, Argentina, and Chile) tend to be a bit juicier with dark fruit flavors--blackberries, cherries, and plums--tempered by leather and cocoa notes. These wines will be in the medium to low range in terms of acidity and typically have a soft tannin presence. Those produced in cooler growing areas (like France and Italy) are going to display slightly more acidity and more gripping tannins. Their juicy ripe fruit flavors are going to take a backseat to velvety earthy notes.

PAIRING Merlot is a flexible wine when it comes to pairing. But it's best food buds are those in the category of "meaty." Think charcuterie plates, hearty casseroles, or hunks of beef, pork, poultry, or game. Just a few ideas to get you started...

Great Plains Burger. Photo: Randy Mayor

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