Merlot is a dark blue-colored wine grape variety that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to come from the word “merle”, the French name for the blackbird, which is probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles of Merlots. The "International style" is the first and is favored by many New World wine regions that tend to emphasis late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. The other style of Merlot is the traditional "Bordeaux style" of Merlot, which involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors, and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.
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