This week we’ll become reacquainted with an old friend, a favorite wine for many of us at one time or another, and deserving, I think, of a fresh look.
I’ve added a second group to the April trip to northern Italy. We’ll do the same itinerary as the first group, only a week earlier, beginning April 13 in Milan. Go to brucecochran.com for details. At the website you can also find out where to pick up a free copy of my printed newsletter “Wine 102.”
Try a new wine this week!
Despite being “dissed” in the pinot noir movie Sideways, merlot is still one of the top three best selling grape varieties in the country, rivaled only cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. But with any wine that has been this popular for this long, there’s a wide array of prices, styles and quality levels. Let’s take a fresh look at this old favorite.
Merlot was long considered a blending grape, but in its native home of Bordeaux, France, cabernet sauvignon is a blending grape, too. On the “Left Bank” the firmer, cabernet-based wines are softened with a little merlot. On the cooler “Right Bank” the suppler merlot wine is given extra “backbone” with varying percentages of cabernet. Today this practice is routine in California as well.
Being naturally less tannic, merlot is smoother than cabernet, so most people making the transition from white wine to red prefer it. It goes well with pretty much the same foods as cabernet, so I generally follow the adage “Sometimes you match the wine with the dinner, and other times with the diner.” If you’re serving two wines with one course, it can be fun to pour a merlot in front of a cabernet sauvignon.